To date, CHKD has treated more than 100 of its tiniest patients -- those born weighing less than 3 pounds 5 ounces and at under 30 weeks gestation -- with breast milk from other milk banks.
"It's amazing. It was really a 5-year plan, but it's happened so quickly, in a year and a half," said spokeswoman
Human milk protects against allergies and contains antibodies to fight disease along with containing growth hormones to help babies develop.
"Donor milk is easily digested and provides infection-fighting benefits and optimal nutrition in the absence of mother's own milk," according to the CHKD website. Consequently, there is a significant decrease in life-threatening complications.
Donors must go through a triple-screen process, according to the bank's manager
Information about their own baby's health is also requested and release letters are required from both the mother's doctor and the pediatrician to assure that donation would not adversely affect the mother's health or deprive the baby of needed nutrition.
The third screening element requires donors to have blood drawn to test for Hepatitis B and C, HIV and HTLV (human T-cell lymphotropic virus). Currently, donors must go to the diagnostic lab, though plans are in the works to have home visit tests in the future.
The length of the screening process depends on how quickly the donor packets are returned and the doctors' letters received, said Baker. She anticipates initial turn-around time for approval at about two weeks, but hopes to cut it to a few days. Once approved, instructions are given on risky behaviors to avoid during donation -- drug use, multiple sex partners, tattoos from a non-regulated site, etc. -- as well as information on hand hygiene and how to store and freeze milk properly. The milk can be dropped off at the CHKD offices at the
Once received, the thawed milk will be mixed with five or six other batches before pasteurization. It will then be lab-checked for bacteria before being cleared to give to babies in CHKD's NICU, said Kent. After a year, the bank hopes to grow sufficiently to supply other hospitals in the region.
Baker is hoping to approve 150 donors in the first year, but received more than 25 calls in the first few days.
"At this rate, we'll easily surpass that," she said, noting that milk that has been in the freezer for less than six months is also acceptable.
Once an infant reaches its first birthday, the bank no longer accepts the mother's milk. "Some go up to two years, but there's not a lot of research on the quality of the milk after a year. The composition does change," said Baker, explaining that a 2-pound baby in the NICU requires the most nutrient-dense milk.
Who: Lactating mothers of infants less than one year old.
How much: 200 ounces initial donation.
Requirements: Must be generally healthy; not using medication or herbal supplements (some exceptions); be willing to undergo a screening, including blood testing, at the milk bank's expense.
To donate milk or funds: call
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