BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -A baby born prematurely, another tiny infant recovering from an open heart surgery, a newborn whose mom who just had a double mastectomy.
These are an example of the babies who need donated breast milk in Alabama’s hospitals.
The nonprofit Mother’s Milk Bank of Alabama, is working to meet that need.
“Mother’s milk bank is a milk donation site where moms in the community who produce access milk can provide it to our organization and we will pasteurize it and dispense it first and foremost to NICU’s for sick and premature infants explains Executive Director Kristina Habchi. “then we provide it to outpatients in the community who are in need.”
The facility opened in 2015 and has grown fast. In 2018, they processed more than 80 thousand ounces of milk, donated from more than five hundred moms.
The donated milk is screened, pasteurized, and then packaged to be sent to patients across the state.
Doctors say the tiniest babies tolerate breast milk better than formula, even if it’s not from their own mother, and have even started to prescribe it.
“Infants that have been in the hospital have compromised immune systems. We test our milk to make sure there is no bacteria present at all and we can guarantee that to the moms. It’s a line of safety when you have a compromised immune system,” says Habchi.
The moms who share their milk, find the bank through breast feeding groups, lactation consultants, hospitals, and social media. Some of them, even benefited from breast milk donations during the their time in the hospital, and want to give back.
“A lot of the moms who are receiving the milk are moms in hospital settings. A lot of moms of premature infants their milk hasn’t let down yet so they are in a weird position where they baby has been born but they haven’t started to produce milk yet. But that’s where we come in, we can fill that gap,” says Habchi. “It’s also used for infants with bowel issues, or cardiac surgery.”
Hospitals purchase the milk from the milk bank, which covers the processing costs.
Mother’s Milk Bank of Alabama is the only milk bank in the state, and serve more than a dozen hospitals. Right now there are no banks in Georgia or Tennessee either, and they often receive requests from out of state.
"We Prioritize Alabama, but if have extra we will ship it to hospitals in other states,” says Habchi.
If you are interested in donating milk, or receiving it, contact the Mother’s Milk Bank at 205-942-8911 ext. 117 or visit the facebook page.