Have unused breast milk in your freezer? You could save an infant's life, says milk bank

·2 min read

The Northeast is experiencing a critical shortage of human milk for infants in hospitals and those newly home and the Mothers' Milk Bank Northeast is asking lactating individuals who can spare some milk become a donor.

Since March 2021, the demand for human donor milk has increased by 15% and will soon surpass the supply available, according to the regional milk bank.

“Milk banks, like blood banks, are facing an urgent need for donors. Most blood donors can donate over many years, but there is only a brief window when a lactating person can donate,” Deborah Youngblood, executive director of Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, said in a news release. “If you have milk in your freezer, you could save a baby’s life right now.”

Mothers' Milk Bank Northeast is based in Massachusetts and provides human donor milk to 100 hospitals and outpatients across the region, including Vermont. The Vermont Donor Milk Center, the first milk bank in the state which opened in Janusary 2020, is an affiliate of the Mothers' Milk Bank Northeast, receiving milk for Vermont families from the regional hub.

The Vermont Donor Milk Center in Essex Junction is stocked up and ready to help families with their infant feeding needs.  The opening on Jan. 6, 2020 made it the first milk bank in the state.
The Vermont Donor Milk Center in Essex Junction is stocked up and ready to help families with their infant feeding needs. The opening on Jan. 6, 2020 made it the first milk bank in the state.

Vermont's milk bank: Vermont's first milk bank opens for parents who can't breastfeed

After a potential milk donor goes through a 15-minute screening, questionnaire and blood test and is ultimately approved, they can bring their donations to the Vermont center based in Essex, which will send them off to be pasteurized and distributed to infants in need.

Why breast milk instead of formula?

Science has shown preterm and low birthweight infants, in particular, have better outcomes with human milk over formula. Human milk has been connected to lowering the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis, an inflammation of the intestines affecting premature babies, by 79%, according to the Mothers' Milk Bank Northeast.

The Vermont Donor Milk Center is located in the Evolution Prenatal and Family Yoga Center on 37 Lincoln Street in Essex Junction.
The Vermont Donor Milk Center is located in the Evolution Prenatal and Family Yoga Center on 37 Lincoln Street in Essex Junction.

“Pasteurized donor human milk is not just food for premature babies; it’s medicine," said Robert Insoft, the regional milk bank's medical director, in a new release. "With more hospitals offering donor milk as standard of care, we need to ensure an ample supply so that no baby who needs donor milk ever goes without it."

Those who wish to help and can spare some milk, can learn more and start the screening at https://milkbankne.org/. Contact by email at donate@milkbankne.org or call 617-527-6263 x3.

Contact reporter April Barton at abarton@freepressmedia.com or 802-660-1854. Follow her on Twitter @aprildbarton.

This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: VT breast milk donations needed for infants in and out of hospitals