LANSING — State Representative Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) held a press conference at the state Capitol today to talk about her legislation to set standards for human milk banks in Michigan. Geiss introduced House Bill 4206 in February, and it was referred to the House Committee on Health Policy.

“Multiple studies show that feeding breast milk to premature infants, whether from their mother or another source, has significant short- and long-term benefits,” Geiss said. “Many mothers are unaware that donated breast milk is an option. I introduced this bill to help premature babies recover and also raise awareness of this critical issue.”

Michigan’s infant mortality rate is among the highest in the nation, at 7.1 deaths per 1,000 live births. In urban areas such as Detroit and Saginaw, have infant mortality rates as high as 15.3 per 1,000 live births. One of the top causes of infant death is necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), which occurs more frequently in premature infants. Using human milk, as opposed to formula, reduces the incidence of NEC, and results in lower hospital readmissions and fewer long-term health issues.

“I’m deeply concerned by the fact that some Michigan cities have infant mortality rates on par with Third World nations,” said state Senator David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights), who introduced companion legislation, Senate Bill 143. “Just as members of a community donate to a food pantry to help those in need, mothers have historically been able to donate milk so that at-risk babies can have a better chance at a full, healthy life. We owe it to everyone involved to maintain high standards around this practice in order to ensure that our children receive the support they need.”

In 2011, the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office issued a Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. Among 20 action items was, “Identify and address obstacles to greater availability of safe banked donor milk for fragile infants.” HB 4206 and SB 143 aim to codify standards for milk banking practices in Michigan and ensure best practices for screening mothers; collecting, processing and providing human milk; and directing the donated milk to premature and critically ill infants where it is needed most.