Just as blood donation creates a life-saving bank for people needing transfusions – did you know there is a local bank for donated breast milk? Ok – clearly not everyone can be a donor, but for nursing mothers this is an opportunity to make an absolutely life-saving difference for ill and premature babies and there is a critical shortage right now.
I met with the team at Nationwide Children’s who manage our donor milk supply and they literally refer to it as liquid gold. Breast milk is truly miraculous – providing not just nutrition but the exact antibodies a newborn needs at any particular stage of development. For premature babies- even the tiniest – human milk is critical and when mom is unable to provide her own milk they turn to the donor bank.
So how can someone become a donor? The Mothers Milk Bank of Ohio is a collaborative that collects and distributes donor milk to hospitals throughout the region. They organize and support all the milk donors as well. The first step for potential donor moms is a screening – just as you go through prior to making blood donation. Approved donors will then be provided with supplies to collect and freeze milk. The bank will arrange with moms to ship, pick-up or drop off milk which is then pasteurized, packaged and distributed where needed, including Nationwide Children’s,
The sad news is there is a major shortage. I toured our donor milk area and the freezers were nearly empty. This is a major worry as we need more than 6500 ounces (about 2200 3-ounce bottles) every year. Our goal is to begin giving breast milk even our tiniest premature babies ( weighing just over a pound) within the first days of life. It may be a just a milliliter at a time but these tiny fighters benefit from the high nutritional value of breast milk and its amazing antibody powers can help protect their digestive track from many life-threatening conditions we see in preemies. We know these things first- hand because our researchers are leading the nation in developing protocols for caring for the tiniest of premature babies and their medical complications.
Mom’s milk is always our first go-to but when it’s not possible, donor milk is our lifesaver. Please help spread the word about our current shortage. There are currently less than 200 donor moms in our community and we need so many more. You can learn more by contacting the Mother’s Milk Bank of Ohio at 614-566-0631.