One day's worth of breast milk from a new mother barely reached the first line on a four ounce vial. The freezer that held the thin, yellowish milk was nearly empty, too—the first breast milk donation bank in the Northwest was not officially open for business last week when I stopped in.
The still-humble milk bank, housed in a small room on the second floor of Adventist Hospital in Southeast Portland, will be the 11th official non-profit breast milk bank in the country. In a toy-filled waiting room next to the birthing wing of the hospital, lactation specialist and organizer of the Northwest Mother's Milk Bank, Peggy Andrews, recalled what it was like back when she breast-fed her children in the late 60s, "Only three percent of women were still breastfeeding at three months. And it was pretty much just the hippies." In her time working in hospitals, Andrews says the culture has completely changed—in Portland, 90 percent of women breastfeed their babies, as do 72 percent of women nationwide.
And what has been integral to mainstreaming the image of breastfeeding? Andrews immediately points to media. "Media has played a very positive role in presenting breastfeeding in a positive light, like talking about world breastfeeding week and showing breastfeeding moms on TV. Forty years ago it would embarrass male news commentators to even say 'breast.'"
Personally, I had never heard of world breast feeding week or, to my memory, seen a breastfeeding mom on TV but, come to think of it, that's probably because I don't own a TV.
More on the milk bank below the cut!