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Free service carries mom's milk to infants

By Erika Engle

LAST UPDATED: 11:18 a.m. HST, Sep 22, 2010

Not every birth goes well. Not every baby born gets to go home with its mother right away. Sometimes babies and mothers are wrenched apart due to medical fragility and the infant's need to receive critical care on Oahu. With help from Aloha Air Cargo and Hawaii Mothers' Milk Inc. that dates back to sometime in the 1980s, those babies can still get their own mothers' milk.

"It just makes a mom connect more with their baby when they're so far removed," said Patricia Ane, executive director of Hawaii Mothers' Milk, a nonprofit originally established as Hawaii Mothers' Milk Bank in 1975. The banking aspect was eliminated as a result of the 1980s heptachlor crisis -- the result of pesticide-laced pineapple tops, called "green chop," being fed to Hawaii dairy cattle, which then produced contaminated milk.

Now "we just really try to encourage moms to provide for their own babies," Ane said. Mother's milk is suited to the different stages of their babies' growth.

Hawaii Mothers' Milk works to support mothers in the effort. While it seems odd to call something so natural an "effort," it is not always easy for a mom to express milk into a container or maintain a supply if she is not directly nursing an infant, Ane said.

Aloha Air Cargo's free mothers' milk shipping service is well known to participating hospitals' lactation specialists, who provide information to moms who will be separated from their babies. The moms are instructed on how the program works and are supplied with bottles and a cooler, which they fill and take to the nearest Aloha Air Cargo facility.

On the Net:

» www.alohaaircargo.com
» hawaiimothersmilk.com
Twelve Hawaii families benefited from the service last year, Ane said.

"We have large cooling units at all the stations, and it does stay very cool," said Lee Steele, president of Aloha Air Cargo. "It goes out on the next possible flight."

Depending on where the infant is receiving treatment, the lactation center at Kapiolani Medical Center or Kaiser Hospital is notified, and a courier is dispatched to pick it up and get it to the hospital.

Steele estimates the company has handled an average of 120 shipments of mothers' milk each year that would otherwise add up to $4,200 in annual shipping costs.

The program started well before Steele's tenure. He noted that Aloha Air Cargo grew out of the former Aloha Airlines, which was "the people's airline" and had a goal of "meeting the needs of the people with the aloha spirit."

"We carry 100 million pounds of freight a year, and this is the most important freight we carry," Steele said. "This is about the little babies."



Editor Ragnar Carlson has tendered his resignation at the Honolulu Weekly.

He will depart in November. "I'm working with Laurie on the timing," a reference to publisher Laurie Carlson, no relation, who did not return a call.

"I'm staying in Hawaii, I'm staying in journalism," he said, though he declined to spill the beans as to which journalistic entity he would be joining.

The Weekly will begin advertising for his successor with today's issue.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Advertiser. Reach her by e-mail at erika@staradvertiser.com.

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