Feeding human milk to babies in the neonatal intensive care unit can reduce complications and even death. But human milk isn’t always available, so NICUs rely on donated milk from The Milk Bank, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit. A new donation site, or milk depot, has now opened at Ascension St. Vincent Women’s Hospital.
Donated milk is the standard of care for many NICUs, said Dr. Eka Akinola, a neonatologist with Ascension St. Vincent and the medical director for The Milk Bank. She said when a baby is admitted to the NICU, expectations and risks are discussed with parents.
“One of the things we talk about that is extremely important is nutrition,” Akinola said. “We say breast milk is like a baby medication for your baby. And we strongly encourage you to pump and provide breast milk. But know that because your baby is being born early, your body is not quite ready to make the milk yet. And because of that, we do have donor milk available that we would provide to your baby.”
The hospital will serve as a collection site for donors certified by The Milk Bank. After the milk is pasteurized, it will be distributed to hospitals and outpatient clinics.
“For years, we've received donor milk in our NICU to use on our babies,” Akinola said. “Now, we’re a site where we can serve and give back to our community and to The Milk Bank, also.”
The Milk Depot at St. Vincent Women’s Hospital will be open weekdays from 8 a.m. - 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. - 6 p.m. Those interested in becoming a donor can start the process online or call The Milk Bank at 317-536-1670. A list of other milk depots can also be found here.
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