Milk bank seeks donations
As the acceptance and popularity of breast milk donations rise, the milk bank in Austin is asking for help to keep up with the demand.
Mother’s Milk Bank Austin serves 90 health care centers in 21 states but is currently only meeting 50 percent of demand, officials said. It’s a sharp decline from 2011, when the milk bank met 85 percent of demand by providing 102,310 bottles of donor milk to 82 hospitals.
Dr. Peter Untalan, neonatologist and president of the group’s board, said although the bank is not meeting demand, it may be a good sign that breast milk donations and their benefits are becoming more widely known.
“Breast milk is not as widely accepted as blood transfusions as a lifesaving donation,” Untalan said. “Our overall donations are up, the problem is the demand for milk has increased as more providers understand it better.”
Mother’s Milk Bank Austin Executive Director Kim Updegrove said the current decrease in donations can be typical for the holiday season because new mothers are busy with family activities.
“Human milk helps their survivability and makes them smarter,” Updegrove said. “Our goal is to have every preterm infant be a contributing member of Call 494-0800 or email email@example.com to set up an appointment. The screening process includes a 10 to 15 minute phone interview, an inperson interview and a blood test. For more information, go to www.milkbank.org/ society, and with human milk we can do that.”
Board member Kari Anne Roy has participated in all dimensions of the organization. She began as a donor after overproducing for her son, Isaac, born 12 weeks early as a 2-pound premature baby. Roy saved and donated 200 ounces of breast milk for her first donation.
Five months later, Isaac was hospitalized and needed breast milk, but Roy was no longer producing. Isaac then became a recipient of donor milk to ensure his survival.
“What they do there is so important because there was nothing Isaac could eat,” Roy said. “Human milk is like medication.”
Mothers interested in donating go through a brief screening process including a phone interview, a followup meeting and blood test. If accepted, mothers are instructed on how to donate milk. There are 22 collection sites; the organization can pay to ship milk for those far away from donation sites.
“(Milk) is not hard to come by, it’s just hard to get the word out,” Roy said. “There is no investment that you have to put into it other than your milk.”
In this 2010 photo, Katrina Hunt, milk processing coordinator, mixes breast milk at the Mother’s Milk Bank in Austin. The milk is poured into bottles, pasteurized and dispensed.