“The nutritional benefits of a mother’s breast milk has long been recognized,” said Marla Raff, BSN, Maternal and Child Health, Bureau Director for the Utah County Health Department (UCHD). “Unfortunately, there are some mothers that cannot provide this ‘liquid gold.’ This is especially important for the littlest preemies.”
“We have the highest birth rate in the state, but have been limited as to how much milk we can get from the Denver-based Mothers’ Milk Bank because of how much is collected here for donation,” said Raff. “By opening our own depot – only the third in Utah – we can help more of these new little ones.”
Neonatologists who take care of the smallest infants call the donated milk, “liquid gold” because it is better than any medicine when it comes to helping these babies grow and survive. UVRMC has been using donor human milk for babies who need supplementation through this program since 2004. “Preemies length of stay in the hospital is greatly reduced when they can be given breast milk,” said Raff. “There are fewer incidences as well of necrotizing enterocolitis, since the colostrums in new mother’s milk helps to prime the babies gut and get it ready to start nourishing the baby.” Breast milk also provides the best nutrition for babies as well as protection from disease passed from mother.
“The process to donate is very simple,” said Deanne Francis, RN, IBCLC NICU, Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. “Mother’s have to fill out an application online and submit a blood test as well as a milk sample. The mother also needs a letter of support from her doctor certifying mom and her baby are in good health and that her own baby will not suffer from the donation. A list of any medical conditions she has, what medications or supplements she takes is also required. These are shipped to Denver for screening and evaluation.”
For the past 28 years, the Mothers’ Milk Bank has been giving the gift of life with donated human milk. The Mothers' Milk Bank screens, collects, processes, stores and dispenses human milk as a community service. Recipients are babies whose mothers cannot supply sufficient milk for their little ones' special health needs. The Mothers’ Milk Bank, a program of the Rocky Mountain Children’s Health Foundation, is one of only 11 milk banks in the U.S. It supplies milk to babies across the country who have a need for human milk to thrive.
Public and private health partners are also in the process of setting up a Utah milk bank. “The goal is to have this in place this year,” said Deanne Francis, RN, IBCLC NICU at UVRMC. “Last year, 54,950 ounces were donated from Utah. We need 60,000 ounces in donations, as well as licensing and start-up costs.”