This month celebrates our one-year anniversary since opening the Texas Children’s Mother’s Milk Bank. What a year it’s been! Our primary reason for developing this program is to meet the needs of our smallest and sickest hospitalized infants. Although the majority of women whose newborns require extended hospitalization choose to provide their own milk, it’s not always possible for them to supply enough for their own baby. As the American Academy of Pediatrics stated this year, pasteurized donor breast milk is the next best option to mother’s own milk. Since Houston did not have a donor milk bank and we were experiencing a tremendous growth in our needs, the time seemed right to create our own program at Texas Children’s.
Our mission then as now, is to qualify breastfeeding mothers to donate their excess breast milk for our hospitalized infants — primarily those in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Our goal was to meet the milk volume needs of these babies and we have more than achieved that goal in one short year. The response from women has been both inspirational and humbling.
Since August 2011, a total of 72 women have donated almost 35,000 ounces of milk, from which approximately 350 infants have been the happy recipients.
For some infants this may only be for a few feedings until mother’s own milk increases; for others it may represent the majority of their nutrition. Whatever the situation, parents have been very supportive of this vital resource and the positive health outcomes seen in their babies.
So who are these donors? This has definitely been a home-grown initiative. Physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, administrative staff and therapists from various units throughout Texas Children’s have qualified as donors. Over the last year, 8 employees have donated over 3,000 ounces of milk. In addition to Texas Children’s employees, 11 mothers of babies in the neonatal and cardiovascular intensive care units have donated almost 6,000 ounces of their excess milk. Of the remaining 53 women, many have ties to Texas Children’s, either as mothers of former NICU patients or other family and friends. And these ties extend outside the state of Texas. Milk has been shipped from Mississippi, Kentucky, and as far away as Florida.
For a mother to qualify as a donor she must have at least 150 ounces of extra milk to donate. That is enough milk to exclusively feed a premature infant for three weeks. However, some women have gone over and above that volume. The highest donation to date is from one mother who sent over 4,000 ounces of milk — with more on the way. Talk about feeding the entire NICU!
The NICU is not the only area that has benefited from this initiative. With the opening of the Pavilion for Women in March of this year, we recently extended the option of pasteurized donor milk to mothers of healthy newborns on our Mother-Baby unit. Occasionally, a newborn baby may need a few supplemental feedings for low blood sugar levels or significant weight loss in the first few days after birth. In these circumstances, for mothers who wish to provide exclusive breast milk, we now have the capacity to provide donor milk to supplement breastfeeding. This option has been very well received by the families and staff.
Thanks to all our donors for a great first year!
This blog post is co-written by Laurel Laviolette, Donor Milk Coordinator.