Denise O’Connor, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Mothers’ Milk Bank, is making sure the region’s youngest residents don’t go hungry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The organization, which opened in 2015 in the Strip District, is ramping up efforts to meet the demand for donor milk, all while continuing to operate under rigorous guidelines from the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA).
Each year, the milk bank works with 500 donors, with about 100 active donors at any one time. This equates to approximately 25,000 ounces of screened, tested and pasteurized milk per month.
In the last two weeks, the number of mothers stepping forward to become donors decreased significantly, O’Connor says. To make sure the supply doesn’t dwindle, she urges women to visit the website, call 412-281-4400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about the donation process and see if they may be a good candidate. Maintaining a healthy diet is important.
The milk bank serves more than 30 neonatal intensive care units across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland. It supplies thousands of medically fragile infants with life-saving breast milk. Babies receiving donated breast milk in the NICU for necessary supplementation have lower rates of serious complications and tend to leave the hospital earlier than those being fed formula.
“We also serve dozens of outpatients annually,” says O’Connor, an IBCLC certified lactation consultant. “We currently have several outpatient recipients with complex medical needs who really are unable to thrive without human milk.”
To prepare for an influx of patients, the milk bank is increasing processing shifts to stock the freezers with as many donations as possible. The facility can accept milk that has been stored in a home freezer for up to eight months.
Mothers who need milk for their babies should speak to their child’s doctor. A prescription is required and insurance coverage usually calls for a preauthorization and documentation of medical need.