Breast Milk Shipped to Africa to Help Feed Orphan Children

What started as extra bags of milk in a fridge is now a philanthropic mission.

ByABC News
October 18, 2007, 10:54 PM

Oct. 19, 2007 — -- On a loading dock outside a nondescript warehouse in the sleepy Los Angeles suburb of Monrovia, men and women in suits join mothers with babies strapped in slings and strollers as toddlers race around their knees. As the last pallet of boxes emerges from the warehouse, they break into a spontaneous round of applause.

Inside those boxes is what they affectionately call "liquid gold" human breast milk donated by mothers across the United States.

For more information about the International Breast Milk Project or to apply to be a donor, go to:

This latest shipment is the largest yet for the International Breast Milk Project group. Nine thousand bottles of frozen breast milk have been carefully packed in dry ice. That's 440 gallons of breast milk, or 50,000 ounces. It's enough to feed six infants for up to one year.

Any way you look at it it's a lot of milk.

It is bound for a home for orphaned children in Durban, South Africa. Three infants will be able to use the milk right away. The rest will be stored or shared with other facilities that help orphaned children and infants who are HIV positive.

For these children, doctors say, healthy human breast milk can have lifesaving properties.

"Breast milk satisfies more than just nutrition because it has a lot of immune properties in it," said Dr. Anna Coutsoudis, a professor of pediatrics and founder of the iThemba Lethu home for orphans. "It helps to keep the children healthy, prevents them from getting things like diarrhea and pneumonia. And most importantly for us, is the HIV-infected children. They, particularly because of their depressed immunity, really do well on breast milk. I mean, it is phenomenal the difference."

Jill Youse is the woman behind the project.

In early 2006, Youse had a freezer full of extra breast milk and wanted to donate it to babies in need.

"I just Googled 'donate breast milk' and came across an orphan home in Durban, South Africa, and decided that's where I'd send my milk," Youse said.

"I thought other women had done it. So when I e-mailed them and said, 'Hey I want to be a donor. What's the process?' And they said, 'Do you realize we are in South Africa?' I said, 'Yeah. Haven't other moms done this before?' And apparently no other moms had."