ST. GEORGE – Babies in newborn intensive care units across the United States use approximately 9,000,000 ounces of pasteurized donated breast milk annually, said Kerry Ann Humphrey, lactation consultant at Dixie Regional Medical Center. But with only 12 milk banks nationwide, there is frequently a shortage.
In the past, moms in Southern Utah who chose to donate breast milk also took on the responsibility of storing, freezing and shipping the milk to the Denver Mother’s Milk Bank, often an expensive and cumbersome process. But a new milk depot at DRMC will now make donating much easier. Mothers who qualify can bring their collected milk directly to the depot, where it will be frozen and shipped to Denver. From there, it will be pasteurized and sent to hospitalized premature infants across the country, some of them right here in the St. George area.
Studies show that low birth-weight babies, those under 2,000 grams (a little more than four pounds), are healthier if fed mothers’ milk. Breast milk can protect vulnerable infants from various health complications, including colds, the flu, respiratory infections and even diabetes and obesity later in life.
“One of the most dangerous conditions that mother’s milk safeguards against is necrotizing enterocolitis,” Humphrey said. Often called NEC, this condition occurs because the baby’s intestines cannot digest formula. “NEC can make babies life-threateningly sick. Babies who get it often have to be taken by Life Flight to a pediatric surgeon up north. It is the biggest thing we try to avoid in the NICU, and breast milk has been shown to dramatically reduce its incidence.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 76.9 percent of American mothers initiated breastfeeding with their babies in 2009. But while nursing is a common preference among most medical professionals and many mothers, it is not always possible.
“There are, at times, reasons why moms are not good candidates for providing their babies with milk. Moms who are on medications, who have certain health conditions or who are sick themselves are often unable to nurse,” Humphrey added.
These moms and babies rely on donated breast milk, which puts mothers who produce more milk than their own babies need in a unique position to help.
The Denver Mothers’ Milk Bank requires that donors:
- Be in good health
- Are non-smokers and don’t use any nicotine products
- Pass a blood test for viruses
- Use no medications during the time the milk is collected except for vitamins, food supplements, progestin-only birth control and replacement hormones like insulin or thyroid medications
- Limit use of caffeine and alcohol
- Be willing to donate a minimum of 150 ounces total during the time they are a donor
- Obtain medical release forms from both their own and their baby’s doctors
Those interested in donating should contact either Humphrey or Kayleen Lowe at 435-688-5440 .
“Moms who donate are giving a beautiful gift to the most vulnerable patients,” Humphrey said.
Submitted by: Dixie Regional Medical Center