Earlier this week, I had the absolute pleasure of touring the New York Milk Bank and meeting with Roseanne, the operations manager. This is a very special place where women can donate their extra breastmilk to babies in the NICU in order to help them “survive and thrive”. It is a non-profit organization operated by five awesome ladies and several volunteers. Why donate human breastmilk?
WHO recommends that “LBW [low birth weight] infants should be fed mother’s own milk. When a mother’s own breast milk is not available, the alternatives are either expressed breast milk from a donor mother or formula milk. Available evidence shows that compared with formula, donor human milk is associated with lower incidence of the severe gut disorder, necrotising enterocolitis, and other infections during the initial hospital stay after birth.”
The FDA says: “In some situations, instead of breastfeeding parents may look for alternative sources of human breast milk to feed their babies.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) “supports using donor human milk to help boost the health of small, preterm babies when needed, but calls for screening, pasteurization and distribution through established donor milk banks to ensure safety.”
What is the process?
The New York Milk Bank is the first, and currently the only, milk bank located in the Tri-state area. They collect donations of breastmilk from all over NY, NJ, CT, VT, and MD, pasteurize (heating the milk at a specific tempurature for a specific amount of time to kill any bacteria), and then distribute it to hospitals and outpatient babies who are ill or premature.
It’s a very simple 4- step process, that starts with a pre-screening interview.
Everyone needs to be interviewed in order for the milk bank to determine if there are any health concerns. It’s very important to understand that what may be healthy for your baby is not necessarily compatible with a sick or premature baby. Also, “specialty diet” milk is also tracked- dairy free, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, kosher, etc are all noted and separated.
Next,is a thorough health history questionnaire and medical releases from your provider and pediatrician. Then, a blood test. Finally, just drop your milk off at the closest milk depot!
What’s a milk depot?
Milk depots are drop off locations, for approved donors, that have special freezers, adhere to strict daily logs, and are licensed with the NYS Department of Health.
What was the facility like?
I was in awe the whole time. The care, tracking, and organization of these precious bags of liquid gold was beyond what I imagined. Freezers everywhere! Each one stores milk for each part of the process (the intake, the approved, the pending while milk is sent out for additional testing, the pasteurized, the list goes on!). The most beautiful sight of all were the freezers filled to the brims with liquid gold for these delicate babies. The tracking system is impeccable. The cleanliness and care given was spot on. During pasteurization, no one except the person working with the milk is allowed in the room while milk is open and even when it’s not- you cannot walk past a step into the doorway. One of the best things I was told was that the facility is a Zero Waste operation. Not only saving babies, but saving the environment!
A Place To Honor Your Baby
An absolutely incredible gift I saw in one of the freezers was breastmilk from a bereaved donor mom. It’s an option that isn’t well-known. Whether it’s one ounce or 150 ounces, one time or a longer duration, mothers can donate their breastmilk in honor of their baby gone too soon.
What can you do to help?
Call to see if you can donate your breastmilk.
Donate money to keep the facility running smoothly.
Donate your time- they are always seeking volunteers and some things can be done from home!
Please visit The New York Milk Bank‘s website for more information.