With an estimated 1.9 million children in South Africa orphaned by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, there is an immediate need to provide these children with the valuable nutrition they need to survive. Research has shown that breastmilk is the best food for an infant, and with 1 in 3 South African children suffering from malnutrition and threat of disease, it provides essential immune-boosting qualities that will stay with the child for years to come.

The International Breast Milk Project is a non-profit organization that provides breastmilk to South African children via breastmilk donations from mothers around the world. We spoke with Amanda Nickerson, the Executive Director of the International Breast Milk Project, about what they do and what you can do to help.

When did the International Breast Milk Project start?
International Breast Milk Project began in April 2006 when founder, Jill Youse, realized she had a freezer overflowing with breast milk. After googling “donate breast milk”, Youse learned of an orphan home in Durban, South Africa in need of donor milk for their HIV positive infants and decided she would send her milk there. At the time, she had no intention of starting a worldwide movement. A local newspaper ran a story about her project and within days, moms from all over the state were contacting her about donating milk. This newspaper article led to more articles, a local television story, and eventually into the hands of Charles Gibson at ABC World News and Oprah Winfrey. As of October 2010, IBMP has provided over 267,682 ounces, or 66,920 bottles, of life-giving donor breast milk to infants in South Africa.

How does the donation process work?
It’s easy!  A mom who has excess breast milk goes to our website, www.breastmilkproject.org and clicks “Donate Milk”.  From there she fills out an online application to get the qualification process started.  After that step is completed, we send a cooler and ice packs to her door, and she mails it back with the donated milk.  There is no cost to the mom whatsoever. The donated breast milk is sent to our processing partner, Prolacta Bioscience, for screening, testing, and pasteurization.  25% of the milk collected is processed and shipped to South Africa.  The remaining 75% of the milk stays in the United States to be made into an exclusively human milk-based, human milk fortifier for critically ill premature infants in neonatal intensive care units.

Are there any plans to provide healthy breastmilk to other countries in urgent need?
We are hoping to expand in the coming years.  As we grow our donor base, we will able to collect more milk and reach more babies in need.

What are some ways moms can get involved, aside from donating their breastmilk?
Moms can get involved in a lot of different ways.  They can hold fundraisers, do a milk drive, join our cause on facebook or twitter, and help let other moms know that they can donate their excess milk.

To learn more about the International Breast Milk Project and how you can join the cause, visit their website at http://www.breastmilkproject.org/

How and why you should do it.

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