ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 139

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Health Ministry issues directives for national breast milk bank during war

Priority will be given to babies whose mothers are dead, injured, missing, kidnapped, or serving in IDF reserves; nursing moms urged to donate

Renee Ghert-Zand is the health reporter and a feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: A mother holds a baby, with a bottle of breast milk at foreground. (Pilin_Petunyia/iStock by Getty images)
Illustrative: A mother holds a baby, with a bottle of breast milk at foreground. (Pilin_Petunyia/iStock by Getty images)

The Health Ministry published guidelines on Sunday for donation of breast milk to the national breast milk bank, and for using the milk during the war against Hamas and other Gaza terror groups.

The breast milk bank is housed and managed by Magen David Adom — Israel’s national emergency medical, disaster, ambulance and blood bank service — in cooperation with the ministry.

Many nursing mothers have been posting on social media that they are willing to donate their milk for babies of women who have been killed, injured, kidnapped, or have been called to IDF reserve duty. There are also injured babies in need of breast milk.

At least 900 Israelis were slaughtered by Hamas after its men stormed into southern Israel on Saturday. Bodies were still being located and collected Tuesday and the death toll is expected to rise. In addition, around 150 Israelis and foreign nationals are believed to be held captive in Gaza.

Relatives and friends caring for the babies have themselves posted that they need breast milk for them. As a result, groups have been formed online to coordinate supplies.

The Health Ministry’s guidelines are meant to unify and streamline these efforts.

“When we fought to establish the breast milk bank in Israel, we were thinking about preemies and babies with complicated medical conditions. Nothing can prepare you for the moment when you are asked for milk for infants whose mothers were murdered in front of them, kidnapped away from them, were injured, or went out to fight,” posted a woman who was involved in advocating for the establishment of the bank.

According to the guidelines announced by the Health Ministry, the bank will supply breast milk to babies up to six months of age whose mothers have been killed, injured, kidnapped, are missing, or have been called to IDF reserve duty.

Illustrative: A newborn baby drinks milk from his mother’s breast on July 16, 2018, in Vertou, western France. (Loic Venance/AFP)

Breast milk will also be given to babies aged six months to a year whose mothers are missing or serving in the IDF reserves if they have an allergy or sensitivity to formula. It will also be available for injured or ill infants up to one year old if a doctor certifies that it is necessary for their recovery.

In cases where the feeding history of the baby is unknown, it will be eligible for breast milk from the bank as long as the security situation and supply allow.

Donations of breast milk must meet specific pumping and storage requirements that ensure quality and safety. Information about this can be found on the breast milk bank’s website.

Ido Nagar, whose wife, Céline Ben-David Nagar, went missing from the Supernova music festival near Re’im, where 260 people were killed on Saturday, thanked the public in a Facebook post, saying many had reached out to him after seeing him interviewed during a Hebrew news television broadcast.

Illustrative: A mother pours freshly expressed milk into a storage bag in Hong Kong, April 1, 2020. (Anthony Wallace/AFP)

He was home with his and his wife’s six-month-old daughter, and a stranger arrived with a cooler full of bags of breast milk.

“It was left with a note that simply said, ‘All Israel is bound together! Be strong. We are with you,” Nagar said.

While there is no doubt that the intention was righteous, the MDA milk bank urges people to make donations through it, as it ensures the proper standards to safeguard the health of the babies who receive the milk.

All nursing women interested in donating and all people caring for relevant babies in need of breast milk should contact the bank by email at milkbank@mda.org.il, by telephone at 073-2630200, or by WhatsApp at 052-2630200.

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