More mother’s milk will soon become available through a state bank, thanks to a new state law.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill (SB 1770) Wednesday evening that authorizes the Agency for Health Care Administration to pay for donor human milk bank services as an optional Medicaid service. The milk will then become available to infants who are “medically or physically unable to receive maternal breast milk or to breastfeed or whose mother is medically or physically unable to produce maternal breast milk or breastfeed.”
Dubbed “liquid gold” by advocates, breast milk is considered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the best source of nutrition for most infants. But sometimes mothers are unable to produce milk when the baby is born prematurely.
Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, for the past four years has sought this change in state law. Rep. Fiona McFarland, a Sarasota Republican, sponsored the House version of the bill.
“For the past four years, I’ve been fighting to ensure that Florida moms and vulnerable babies have the healthiest start possible by having access to safe, sterilized human milk when the mother cannot naturally provide it,” Book said in a statement Wednesday night.
“I am so proud we’ve finally made it across the finish line. When babies are born early, at a low birth weight, or with other high-risk factors, donor human milk is, in many respects, a miracle therapy. Now, families will be able to receive donor human milk to feed and heal babies who need it.”
It’s a cause that found solid bipartisan support this year.
“Protecting small babies is something that should have all of our hearts,” McFarland said when the bill passed in the Legislature.
McFarland in her first term as a lawmaker has had two children, so she knows the pressures facing new mothers. “Anyone who’s spent even a day in the NICU— parents of twins or preemies especially get this— understands the importance of getting the right nourishment for these babies,” she wrote. “As a nursing mom myself, it’s important we do everything we can for our tiniest Floridians as well as ease the burden of Florida families.”
The budget, which has yet to be sent to the Governor, includes a $75,000 line item for the Mother’s Milk Bank of Florida to provide milk to babies at home. That Orlando-based bank supplies pasteurized human milk to neonatal units as well as medically fragile babies at home.
The new law takes effect on July 1.