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Banking Milk, Saving Lives

Many new mothers might think that their own breast milk and formula are the only two choices when it comes to feeding their newborn babies. But thanks to the WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank, and only 14 other milk banks in the United States, donated breast milk presents a third option for newborn and infant nutrition.

“Breast milk is the recommended source of nutrition for newborns, especially those who were born prematurely,” said Bonnie Gustavison, RNC, MSN, director of Women’s & Children’s Services on the WakeMed Raleigh Campus. “It contributes so much to a baby’s health and development, including a reduction in allergies, a stronger immune system, and a reduction in illness and disease.”

Formula itself cannot provide the same protection that passes to a baby from the antibodies in a mother’s milk. Additionally, human milk helps develop and seal a baby’s gastrointestinal tract for life.

“This is an especially vital form of protection for premature babies as gastrointestinal disease is often life threatening to our tiniest patients,” explained Laurie Tollens, RN, a lactation specialist at WakeMed. “Not only can donated breast milk be lifesaving for premature infants, but it can also have a profound impact on a mother who is unable to produce enough breast milk on her own. The choice to accept donated breast milk allows a mother to still provide for her baby in this way.”

The WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank dispenses 10,000 to 18,000 ounces of breast milk to hospitals per month. This includes WakeMed and hospitals throughout the southeast. Strictly following all guidelines mandated by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), the WakeMed Milk Bank requires all of its donors to complete a rigorous screening process that includes an in-depth questionnaire and blood work that is repeated every six months while the woman is a donor. After receiving frozen milk from a donor, the Milk Bank pasteurizes, homogenizes, tests and re-freezes the milk in a highly controlled and monitored environment before sending it out for use. All milk is labelled and tracked so that a recall process can be put into place if needed. These are critical assurances that cannot be found when purchasing milk from non-Milk Bank sources.

“Our donors are healthy, generous women who desire to pay it forward and give their milk for a variety of reasons,” explained Gustavison. “Some have extra milk and want to give back, and some might have experienced a loss but still want to use their milk to help others and their fragile babies.”

Moms who need the milk might not be able to produce enough breast milk on their own or might have adopted a baby, among other reasons. Regardless, the Milk Bank gives many families a chance to feed their babies breast milk when it otherwise might not be an option.

“The WakeMed Mothers Milk Bank represents yet another way that WakeMed works to support the well-being of our community,” added Gustavison. “We strive to give our babies the healthiest start possible in life and to give parents all the support they need to raise healthy, happy kids.”

Donors are Needed
The WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank is always accepting new donors. For more information, visit our website or call 919-350-8599.