Milk banking in Hungary

by Réka Morvay on August 23, 2008

Do you need extra breastmilk for your baby? Do you have excess breastmilk you’d like to donate?

You have two major options in Hungary if you find yourself in either of these positions. The state does have a program that collects breastmilk from mothers who express an interest in donating their breastmilk. You have to discuss the details with your védőnő (health visitor), as she is the one who can give you pointers on where to have all the required tests done. Because you will need a chest X-ray, a stool test, an AIDS test, and a visual examination of your breasts before you can start giving milk to the state, where they will pasteurize it and forward it to a select few needy babies, mostly ones who were born prematurely or have some other serious illness. They pay HUF 1800 for a liter (!) of expressed breastmilk, and they are very picky about the breastmilk they take, so expressing for them is not exactly convenient. If you’re interested in giving breastmilk to the state (and speak Hungarian), check out the following website: http://www.heimpalkorhaz.hu/anyatej/

Receiving breastmilk from the state is free, if you qualify. You have to request it from your pediatrician, who can write a prescription for it, but be prepared that both doctors and health visitors tend to attempt to steer mothers away from this choice, often pushing formula instead. The cynic in me says this is because they have a lot of added administration with requesting breastmilk from the state, and also due to – an incorrect – belief that formula is safer than banked breastmilk. At the end of the day, banked breastmilk is still breastmilk with its immune factors, hundreds of biological components, and baby-friendly proteins that has been designed for babies’ digestive systems, whereas formula remains modified cow’s milk.

Even if you do not qualify for the state-subsidized free breastmilk for your baby, you still have options. Your védőnő (health visitor) may be able to help you locate a mother in your vicinity with breastmilk to donate, and from there, you’re on your own to figure out the details of this transaction. Many mothers are happy just to donate, some ask to be reimbursed for the cost of the sterile storage bags, and some ask for even more money than that. Many women are willing to undergo the same testing required for state donation, and it may make you more comfortable to ask for these tests to be done.

If your védőnő cannot help, there is a civil organization that specializes in matching breastmilk donors with recipients. They are Eszterlánc Anyatejmisszió (click on the link to visit their website). For a 3000 Ft fee, they provide 3 months of access to their constantly updated database where mothers needing milk can connect with mothers offering milk.

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