Saint Barnabas opens human milk depot

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LIVINGSTON, NJ — Saint Barnabas Medical Center celebrated the grand opening of a human milk depot in partnership with Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast. This is the first New Jersey milk bank for Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast. Mothers who are nursing and producing more milk than they need can give other babies a chance to receive breast milk by donating to the milk bank. Carefully screened donors are now able to conveniently drop their milk off at Saint Barnabas Medical Center.

“All babies benefit from human milk with rare exception, but for medically fragile or premature infants, breast milk is even more critical. In times when a mother is unable to provide enough of her own milk, the next best option is pasteurized banked donor breast milk,” said Dr. Kamtorn Vangvanichyakorn, director of SBMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. “At Saint Barnabas Medical Center, we have been providing banked breast milk for our NICU babies for many years. We are celebrating the expansion of this program to provide banked breast milk for babies in all of our nurseries when a mother is unable to breastfeed or requires supplementation. In addition, we will open our depot for authorized mothers to donate their milk.”

Milk donor screening, modeled after blood donor screening, includes health history, physician approval and a blood test. These are some of the many measures taken to ensure the safety of milk for the fragile premature and sick babies served by the milk bank and the hospitals that use the milk. Milk from mothers who pass the screening is also pasteurized and tested by an independent lab to ensure safety before being dispensed to hospitals or families.

According to the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, one in nine babies in the United States is born premature. In 2018, HMBANA and its 27 human milk bank members distributed almost 6.5 million ounces of donor human milk to babies throughout the United States and Canada. Feeding human milk to a premature baby can reduce the newborn’s risk of contracting common illnesses, such as necrotizing enterocolitis, by 75 percent.

“It may take several days for a new mother to produce enough milk to meet the baby’s needs,” said Dr. Timothy Yeh, chairman of SBMC’s Department of Pediatrics. “The antibodies in breast milk help protect newborns, including full-term and premature babies, from infection and help the baby grow.”

With the opening of this location, Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast will now have 28 depots in nine states throughout the Northeast; this is the first in New Jersey for the milk bank. Newborns in SBMC’s Family Centered Care Unit and NICU will benefit from the donated milk. A bridge supply will be available for mothers who are awaiting their milk bank delivery at home.

Mothers who wish to donate milk can review guidelines on the milk bank website at milkbankne.org/donate, then contact a donor intake coordinator for screening at 617-527-6263, ext. 3, or donate@milkbankne.org to get started.

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