Surplus mothers’ milk can be lifesaving for some infants
GUILFORD (Shoreline Times) >> In addition to breastfeeding her two sons, Jacqui Penda fed and nurtured thousands of babies through her donation of 2,452 ounces of breast milk to the breast milk depot.
“You figure a newborn baby maybe takes a half ounce a feeding, if that, a NICU baby,” says Jan Ferraro, Acelleron Medical Products director of education for Connecticut.
“So you take 2,400 ounces, that’s 4,800 babies that she took care of,” she says. “That’s incredible.”
The first Connecticut milk depot opened a year ago in Guilford’s Acelleron office. It partners with the nonprofit Mother’s Milk Bank Northeast (MMBNE) to make breast milk available to babies in need.
Babies might receive donor breast milk because of preterm birth, failure to thrive, malabsorption syndromes, allergies, feeding/formula intolerance, immunologic deficiencies, pre- or post-operative nutrition and infectious diseases, according to http://milkbankne.org.
To date, the depot has donated over 5,500 ounces to feed babies across the state, yet at this time their freezer is empty, says Ferraro.
Penda, of Branford, encourages others to get involved with this life saving program. While she says the screening process takes about three weeks it is well worth it in the long run and incredibly gratifying.
“As long as your child’s being fed and they’re gaining (weight) and they’re taken care of, obviously their needs come before, but if you’re at a point where you’ve got extra to spare and it’s sitting in the freezer and you may not use it, I’d say, ‘Go for becoming a donor’ because it’s so rewarding,” says Penda.
“It’s fulfilling,” she adds. “It’s literally a labor of love because it is extra, but in my opinion there’s people in need and things could always be worse for you. You could be that person someday, so it’s nice to know that there are people out there doing this just out of the goodness of their hearts.”
Milk donor screening is modeled after blood donor screening and includes a health history, physician paperwork and a blood test. Milk from mothers who pass the screening is then pasteurized and, before being dispensed, tested again.
Hospitals that use MMBNE donor milk include Bridgeport Hospital, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Hospital of Central Connecticut, Manchester Memorial Hospital, St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center and Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Faye Klein, of Fairfield, experienced firsthand how important human milk donation is after her daughter, Reese, was born prematurely. Klein’s type 1 diabetes made it difficult to nurse immediately after giving birth and Reese had an adverse reaction to formula.
Watching Reese, 2, run around, playing and laughing, Klein talks about how critical breast milk donation was during her daughter’s first three weeks of life in the NICU unit.
“It was life saver for her at that point,” says Klein. “It was something that gave us a sense of relief because we were very stressed out about the fact that we had limited options and the fact that we could turn to donated milk was really our only option at that point.”
Naomi Bar-Yam, Executive Director of Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast (MMBNE), applauds Ferraro’s work. “She’s one of my heroes,” says Bar-Yam. “She’s amazing.”
“A depot really helps moms to make it convenient for them to drop off their milk, our donor moms, and depots really put the word out in the community not only about the importance of donor milk, but just the importance of human milk and breastfeeding in general.”
“It raises the visibility of both of those things and that’s really important not only for the babies that we serve, but for babies that we hopefully don’t need to serve because moms are feeding their babies themselves.”
As Penda’s sons, Dylan, 3, and Luke, 1, play with Reese Klein, she reflects on her decision to donate her surplus of milk while nursing her youngest son for eight months. “It just makes me feel good knowing that there are people in need who are receiving this – it’s liquid gold – especially for preemie babies in NICUs,” she says.“Knowing that someone was out there benefiting from it just made me feel good, because I feel like it takes a village,” says Penda. “I just liked knowing that I was helping and I had it to give.”
Acelleron Medical Products is located at 2488 Boston Post Road, Suite 20A, Guilford. For more info call 203-804-5974; email [email protected]; visit online at https://acelleron.com; or find them on Facebook Acelleron Medical Products.