The Milk of Human Kindness

By admin
September 03, 2015

The Mothers’ Milk Bank of Mississippi is banking on the generosity of lactating mothers, and the time, talents and financial support of volunteers to provide life-saving mothers’ milk for infants in need.

Unless you have been directly involved with a family member or friend who has given birth to a premature or special needs infant who needed human breast milk to survive, recover and thrive, you might not be aware that every day, across the country and around the world, volunteers are donating precious mothers’ milk to babies they will never meet or cradle in their arms, but whose lives they will help to save. Infants receive the breast milk they need from milk banks, which collect the donations, process them by pasteurization, package and distribute them, primarily to hospital NICU’s by physician prescription.

Until 2010, Mississippi had only “mothers’ milk depots,” or locations where milk donations could be dropped off and shipped to full-service milk banks in Fort Worth or Austin, TX, for processing. However, five years ago the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Mississippi (MMBM) was established in Flowood, and it has been working diligently ever since to reach its goal of being prepared and equipped to collect, process and dispense breast milk. It is a non-profit milk bank and a member of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America or HMBANA. (It is important to note that HMBANA milk banks do not pay donors for their donations and no donations are accepted until mothers have passed a thorough screening process). Once the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Mississippi meets HMBANA guidelines to become fully operational, it will be the only medically supported and professionally staffed storage and dispensing facility for human breast milk in Mississippi.

Milk banks that are members of the Human Milk Banking Association of America member, like MMBM do not pay donors for their donations and no donations are accepted until mothers have passed a thorough screening process.

Well-Being talked to Linda Pittman, RN, BSN, IBCLC, the Executive Director of MMBM, about the organization and why non-profit milk banks are so important.

“We at Mothers’ Milk Bank of Mississippi are extremely excited and pleased that later this fall we will be able to begin processing our own breast milk and not have to rely solely on other milk banks to provide the needs of Mississippi infants,” notes Pittman. “Currently we accept mother’s milk donations, but for now, we have to send the milk we collect to the Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas in Fort Worth for processing. That means when milk is needed at hospitals here in Mississippi, it comes from the milk bank in Fort Worth, the one in Austin or milk banks in other states (usually North Carolina or Indiana), when the Texas facilities’ supplies are too low to fill a request.”

According to Pittman, people often ask her about the safety of breast milk donations they receive.

“Before a woman can donate her breast milk to the MMBM or another HMBANA member milk bank, she has to undergo a stringent screening process,” Pittman continues. “She is required to complete a written survey form, a telephone interview, have her blood tested and have forms completed and signed by her healthcare provider and her baby’s healthcare provider, to assure there are no medical problems. Donating mothers must be non-smokers, in good general health, not currently on medication and not using herbal supplements. Because blood tests are paid for by MMBM, we ask that a mother be able to donate a minimum of 100 ounces of milk in order to justify the expense of testing.”

When premature and at risk infants have access to breast milk, they generally get to go home sooner, have fewer complications and the cost of their care is less.

It you are wondering about the value of deposits made to the MMBM, here are some astounding facts to consider:

A bottle (100 ml, about 3 ounces) of donor milk costs about $12.00 to process. Babies weighing under 1,500 grams (3 pounds) require as little as 1-2 ml per feeding. Human milk for a typical baby’s entire hospital stay costs about $1,145. That’s far less than one day of neonatal intensive care.

WB.MothersMilkBabyThe Mothers’ Milk Bank of Mississippi is funded through grants, private donations, and fund raising events. It is governed by a board of directors and its daily operations are under the direction of the executive director.

“When we are fully up and running, we will be able to receive donations from milk depots around the state,” Pittman explains. “But it is going to be crucial that we recruit more milk donors so we can begin to have the volume to supply all of the needs of Mississippi NICUs. Currently breast milk donations collected from Mississippi moms furnishes only about 1/3 of what is needed.”

There is a critical need for breast milk donors in Mississippi. Currently only about 1/3 of the mothers’ milk needed in Mississippi NICUs comes from in-state donors.

“It is important to let people around the state know about us so they understand why what we do is so important to Mississippi families,” adds Pittman. “For people who want to help, there are several different ways to give – by volunteering time, by spreading the word to family and friends, by contributing financially or most importantly by donating breast milk. We also have our annual fundraiser, the Milk Run 5K, which is set for Saturday, October 17 in Biloxi, Mississippi. This is our second year for the Milk Run and it is shaping up to be a great one. It’s lots of fun and in a beautiful location. The best part is, when you participate, you can know you are doing something to make a real difference for Mississippi babies.”

To learn more about the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Mississippi and how you can contribute, visit www.msmilkbank.org.

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