The Effingham County Health Department is now a human milk depot, a site where mothers can donate spare milk to help babies in need. The county Health Department was added Tuesday to a network of human milk depots throughout the Midwest organized under the Indianapolis-based Milk Bank. The goal is to provide human milk to frail, or sick, infants when their own mother’s milk is unavailable.
According to Milk Bank Director of Clinical Services, Sarah Long, the demand for human milk is high. “For the most part, the public does know how important human milk is,” Long said. “They know how important breastfeeding is, however there are instances where mothers cannot breastfeed their own child, so the option of having human milk available, particularly for very sick, fragile infants, is extremely important and is recognized by the CDC, AAP, and it is recommended.”
Long discusses the need for human milk.
Long said that human milk can be lifesaving for premature infants because it helps to prevent necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a disease that affects a child’s intestines that can be fatal. However, premature infants are not only recipients of donations. Doctors evaluate new mother’s needs and recommend human milk on a case-to-case basis. The non-profit Milk Bank does charge hospitals a fee for service to cover their operating costs such as donor screening and milk processing.
Not just anyone can donate. In fact, potential donors go through a series of screenings to become eligible. The Milk Bank covers the costs associated. Once donors are approved, they drop off their milk at a depot where it is shipped to Indianapolis to be pasteurized and distributed.
“Breast milk has numerous benefits for infants so we want to strongly encourage feeding human milk,” Said Effingham County Health Department Director Jeff Workman. “We also want to ensure that any donated breast milk babies receive is safe. I’m pleased to that the Human Milk Bank and the Effingham County Health Department have been able to work together to further both those goals.”
Health Department Peer Counselor Emilee Kistler said there has been interest in donating milk in the area. “We’ve had several people ask where to take their milk, or what to do with their milk, and as professionals we can’t tell them to just share, because that’s not safe” Kistler said. “So this provides a safe way to give them the satisfaction of helping other babies in a safe way.” Kistler said it would also be an opportunity to inform moms about available Health Department services.
Kistler on the public’s interest in donating.