Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
The New York Milk Bank, New York, USA
Photos: Justin Chauncey Photography
The New York Milk Bank is now supplying pasteurized donor human milk to infants in need.
On September 21, 2016, The New York Milk Bank, a nonprofit in Westchester County, NY, USA, opened as the first and only comprehensive, community-based milk bank in New York State.
The milk bank is committed to increasing availability and access to life-saving breast milk. The venture, licensed by the New York State Department of Health, was started by a volunteer group of lactation experts that included physicians, nurses, and lactation professionals. It will process donated breast milk and coordinate distribution of pasteurized donor human milk to feed babies in need, particularly premature and sick infants, when their own mother’s milk is not available in sufficient quantity.
Human milk protects against numerous life-threatening infections, especially in vulnerable preterm babies, who often face significant health challenges and are at particular risk of developing necrotizing enterocolitis, a potentially fatal intestinal disease. The executive director of the milk bank, Julie Bouchet-Horwitz, FNP, IBCLC, is a current LLL Leader (since 1994) and has breastfed two children, including an adopted baby. She said:
“We are thrilled that after many years of hard work New York has its own milk bank. Until now, donated milk was sent to milk banks in other states for processing and distribution. Now New York can participate in offering this vital medicine for premature infants. Research has shown that pasteurized donor human milk lowers the rates of necrotizing enterocolitis, reduces hospital stay, and is cost effective. Through education and outreach we hope that all hospitals in New York will begin to provide donor milk to babies in need. Research confirms that when a milk bank opens in a state, the breastfeeding rates rise. When hospitals begin to use donor milk, the awareness and the importance of breastfeeding increase and more women breastfeed.”
Roseanne Motti manages the daily operations of the milk bank, was an LLL Leader from 1990 to 1996, and has breastfed four children. She said:
“Our facility is accepting donations from women throughout the state. Currently over 20 hospitals in New York are using donor milk delivered from out of state. We are now able to process the amount of milk needed for infants throughout New York. As the need for donor milk increases, we are ready to meet the demand. We are located 30 minutes outside of Manhattan and can easily deliver milk to the many hospitals that need it.”
As an LLL Leader, Roseanne facilitated a morning and an evening LLL monthly meeting. The evening meetings were attended by mothers who worked during the day, and she learned first-hand how dedicated those mothers were to breastfeeding and pumping—oftentimes having to deal with nipple confusion and supply issues—because they knew the importance of providing human milk to their infants.
“We are incredibly thankful for the generosity of mothers who donate their extra breast milk to help save the lives of premature, low birth weight and sick infants. They are part of a centuries-old tradition of donating milk to help infants in need, and provide an essential benefit that has been validated time and again by the medical community.”
Theresa McCaffrey, of Hastings-On-Hudson, said:
“My daughter was born prematurely at 24 weeks and needed donor milk after her birth. I saw firsthand how beneficial breast milk can be for babies struggling to survive, and know how scary it is, as a parent, not to have milk readily available. I’m happy that New York families now have such a strong advocate when it comes to the health of our babies.”
Mothers who have been screened by the milk bank donate milk at one of the 16 depots in New York accepting donations, with more opening in the coming months. Mothers may also ship their frozen milk directly to the bank.
The milk bank is licensed by the New York State Department of Health and accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) to ensure safety. Donors to HMBANA-accredited milk banks undergo a thorough screening process, including verbal and written questionnaires, a blood test for HIV and other infectious diseases, and medical clearance from the donor’s and baby’s health providers. Donated milk is then pasteurized to destroy bacteria and viruses and tested to ensure safety.