Community Milk Depot Opens in Norwood
By Betsy Millane
In 1986, a baby boy was born prematurely in Chicago. His mother was sent home and he remained behind in the NICU, but he was fed his mother’s expressed milk via a bottle or feeding tube. The hospital was 25 miles away, so family members retrieved the milk and made the journey with the precious ounces.
On one trip, traffic and parking made a particular uncle anxious. He entered the hospital, frantic to make the delivery, but was banned from getting the elixir to the NICU. Parents only, he was told. Flustered, he blurted: “But- I’m the Milk Man!” and gained entrance.
The Milk Man with precious ounces indeed.
Mother’s milk is often the best option, if possible, especially for babies who had difficult deliveries, are ill, premature, or for other reasons, not ready for formula. Fragile baby’s intestines are often not amenable to formula. With the shortage of formula, it’s more important than ever for a new mother to give breast feeding a try.
But what if you can’t breast feed?
Breastfeeding, all agree, isn’t easy. And it isn’t always an option. Should a mother have her own health issues, it might not be possible to nurse her baby.
And babies need to be fed.
Enter: Mother’s Milk Bank which opened its doors December 7, 2022, in Norwood. Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, a donor milk depot at Reliable Maternity, located at 1504 Boston-Providence Turnpike, Suite 7B Norwood, MA.
The nonprofit milk bank collects milk from mothers who have more supply than their babies need. They screen their donors. The approved donors then drop their milk off at a local depot, which are small, localized settings ready to receive the donations.
A local, all women’s bike club, Moving Violations, brings it to the hospitals.
“We are grateful and delighted to be partnering with the team at Reliable Maternity,” Deborah Youngblood, Executive Director of Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast said. “They recognize the critical need to promote breast milk donation so that there is ample supply for the tiny babies who rely on us for a healthy start in life. Milk donor screening, modeled after blood donor screening, includes health history, physician approval, and a blood test. No one is paid for donating the milk, there is no profit in this endeavor.”
How did this get started?
In 2006, Naomi Ball Young learned all she could about the importance of milk donation, and started the first Human Milk Bank of North America. The program was accredited in 2011 and follows all the rules of safety.
The milk bank is not the only way to share excess milk. It’s possible to donate privately, screened by the lactation /coach nurse she used herself.
A donor had this to say when asked how she learned of this possibility.
“I had a friend who had an oversupply and donated,” anonymous donor said. “I thought, why not? My breastfed children were in the 99th% for growth, why not share this milk?
The triple-demic – Flu, RSV, and Covid, convinced me to breast feed as I believe the baby gets the mother’s immunities to fight off these viruses. The shortage of formula makes it even more important to breastfeed – there were no other options”.
But why donate, I asked her?
“Because I found breastfeeding to be a life changing experience,” she said. “After giving birth, I thought anything was possible. There’s something so powerful about the entire experience. Nursing was astonishing. My baby did get RSV and it made me feel helpless. Knowing I was doing all I could by nursing her, the one thing I could do, was comforting for me.
Mothers face a lot of challenges these days. Between work, the pandemic, family, lack of family support, they need help. This is my way of helping others”.
I had a healthy baby after a complicated delivery,” A donor mild recipient said. “I breastfed, and initially she was on track with her weight, but seven weeks in, she was not gaining weight the way she should. I tried everything to increase my supply, but finally, after following all the expert’s advice, my lactation consultant recommended I considered donor milk. My lactation coach knew of a healthy mother who had an abundant supply and I went to her. The milk was good, it supplemented my nursing and a month or two later, my supply was up and I was able to breastfeed 100%”
For mothers who donate, this process is a powerful contribution, giving their milk to other women. They feel proud, and feel good about what they can do. Helping vulnerable babies and mothers is empowering. One mother said she feels she is “giving together.”
There is this potent connection between mothers, sharing and caring for newborns beyond their own. How perfect to have resources that can benefit families looking to feed their babies, and it all starts right here in Norwood.