Yesterday I was able to go and visit the new home of the Mountain West Mother’s Milk Bank. It’s been a decade or so since the movement to get a milk bank here started.
If you’re not familiar with human milk banks, they work with volunteer donors who give excess milk to the milk bank. The milk from the milk bank goes to the most fragile babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units around the state. Because of pregnancy complications, stress, or other factors, 70% of the parents of babies in the intensive care unit are not able to make enough milk to feed their own babies, and donor milk fills in that gap. The pasteurized milk that the milk bank provides is the safest option for babies who are sick.
The milk bank screens the donors to ensure they are in good health. The donors bring the milk to the milk bank and it is frozen and checked in. This milk bank currently process and distributes over 100 gallons each month, even though they’ve only recently received accreditation and started processing.
To process the milk, it is defrosted, pooled together, pasteurized, bottled, sealed and labeled. The new facility has a clean room for workers handling the milk so contamination doesn’t happen. I was able to watch the process through windows into the clean room at the new facility. The milk is tested for purity and composition during and after the process.
Each bottle of donor milk is marked with nutrition information and a batch number, so that the NICUs who use it can know what the babies are getting and any problems with a batch can be identified.
Years ago the process toward having a local milk bank started with milk collection sites housed in hospitals and clinics, then the milk bank moved to an office of it’s own for milk collection, screenings and temporary storage, but until recently all the milk had to be shipped to Denver for processing and sometimes milk was lost to thawing along the way.
Now the milk bank has opened a larger office that includes a clean room to do all the processing on site. This means the milk bank is able to better serve the local NICUs with milk. Less milk is lost during shipping, and the milk is delivered faster to the preemies who need it.
With the recent accreditation of the new facility, the nonprofit Mountain West Mother’s Milk Bank is “small but mighty, just like the babies we serve” according to Jessica Brothers Clayton, IBCLC and member of the board of directors.
If you’d like to support their efforts to help the tiniest babies, either by donating your milk or by donating money to cover expenses and expand operations, please visit their web site.