“There are only twelve milk banks in the United States, and there is frequently a shortage of donated milk,” said Humphrey.
In the past, moms in southern Utah who chose to donate breast milk also took on the responsibility of storing, freezing, and shipping the milk to the nearest Mothers’ Milk Bank, located in Denver. But a new milk depot located at Dixie Regional Medical Center will make donating much easier. Mothers who qualify can bring their collected milk directly to the milk depot, where it will be frozen and shipped to the Denver Mothers’ Milk Bank. From there it is pasteurized and sent to hospitalized or premature infants across the country – some of them right here in southern Utah.
Studies show that low birth-weight babies – those under 2,000 grams (a little more than four pounds) – do much better when fed mothers’ milk. Breast milk can protect vulnerable NICU babies from all kinds of complications, including colds, the flu, respiratory infections, and even diabetes and obesity later in life.
“One of the most dangerous conditions that mother’s milk safeguards against is necrotizing enterocolitis,” said Humphrey. Often called NEC, this condition occurs because the baby’s intestines cannot digest formula. “NEC can make babies life-threateningly sick. Babies who get it often have to be taken by Life Flight to a pediatric surgeon up north. It is the biggest thing we try to avoid in the NICU, and breast milk has been shown to dramatically reduce its incidence.”
Unfortunately, “There are, at times, reasons why moms are not good candidates for providing their babies with milk. Moms who are on medications, who have certain health conditions, or who are sick themselves are often unable to nurse,” said Humphrey.
These moms and babies rely on donated breast milk, which puts mothers who produce more milk than their own babies need in a unique position to help. The Mothers’ Milk Bank requires that donors:
• Be in good health.
• Are non-smokers and don’t use any nicotine products.
• Pass a blood test for viruses.
• Use no medications during the time the milk is collected except for vitamins, food supplements, progestin-only birth control, and replacement hormones like insulin or thyroid medications.
• Limit use of caffeine and alcohol.
• Be willing to donate a minimum of 150 ounces total during the time they are a donor.
• Obtain medical release forms from both the mother’s and the baby’s doctors.
Those interested in donating should contact either Kerry Ann Humphrey or Kayleen Lowe at 688-5440 .
“Moms who donate are giving a beautiful gift to the most vulnerable patients,” concluded Humphrey.
For more information, check the Human Milk Banking Association of North America website: https://www.hmbana.org or the Denver Mothers’ Milk Bank website: www.MilkBankColorado.com.