Editor’s Note: The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District’s Milk Depot opened for donations on Friday, June 20, 2014 at 10 a.m.
By Kelly Youngblood
Donating excess expressed breast milk will soon be much easier thanks to a new initiative that will make the Champaign Urbana Public Health District a drop-off site for donors.
Board members of the Champaign Urbana Public Health District approved the proposal at a meeting on April 14. The CUPHD will acquire a freezer soon and will officially begin operating as a milk depot for the Indiana Mother’s Milk Bank by early summer.
The Indiana Mother’s Milk Bank, which is currently the closest milk bank to Central Illinois residents, pasteurizes and screens breast milk and then sends it to neonatal intensive care units in hospitals throughout the Midwest.
Currently there are only two drop-off sites in Illinois, both located in the Chicago area. That means mothers in Central Illinois who are currently donating breast milk have to purchase dry ice and pay to ship their milk to the Indiana Mother’s Milk Bank. (The milk bank does reimburse donors for shipping and provides supplies.)
But once the CUPHD is an official depot site, Central Illinois mothers will only need to drive a short distance to drop off their donor milk.
Heather Ludwig, who works for the CUPHD as a nutritionist and lactation consultant with WIC, has been spearheading this proposal since February.
“Central Illinois moms are very well known for being donors of breast milk but there hasn’t been a convenient way to do it. They have to set up everything with the milk bank, store everything in their own freezer, find dry ice, and contact the milk bank to have delivery set up. There’s a lot more steps in the process for moms,” she said.
“If there’s a milk bank depot, they can drop off when they need to. It’s meant to make donation easier. Many moms would donate extra milk if they have it if there’s an easier way,” Ludwig added.
Jodi Fan, a Lactation Consultant for Tree of Life Doula Services and a La Leche League Leader in Champaign-Urbana, says she is very excited to have this depot coming to the area.
“Having a depot right here in town, where moms can just drive it over and drop it off (after the initial screening process) will be invaluable. It will help moms in our area to be able to easily donate and help out another family, and this milk can be lifesaving for a baby in need,” said Fan, who is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
Donors must be approved by the Indiana Mother’s Milk Bank before any donations can be accepted. The process does include a minimal blood screening but it’s at no cost to the donor. Anyone interested in becoming a registered milk donor should go to the Indiana Mother’s Milk Bank website.
Once approved, moms will then be able to contact the CUPHD to set up a time to drop off their donation.
Most of the milk donated goes to help premature or sick infants. According to Ludwig, premature babies are at a much greater risk of contracting necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a serious and potentially life-threatening gastrointestinal disease that involves infection or inflammation that causes destruction of the bowel.
Ludwig says breast milk protects the fragile immature gut of premature infants and can prevent NEC.
Recognizing that some mothers of premature babies are unable to pump their own milk for a variety of reasons, Ludwig emphasizes the need for women who can breastfeed to donate a portion of their milk supply.
“Having donor milk available for premature babies seriously saves lives,” she said.
Currently, Carle Foundation Hospital and Presence Covenant Medical Center both support mothers pumping for their NICU babies, Ludwig said. But if those moms are unable to breastfeed, Carle has donor milk available for at risk premature babies and Presence will soon be starting to offer it.
Donor milk also is available for moms at home (with a doctor’s prescription) who would like to feed their baby breast milk but are unable to breastfeed. However, at a cost of up to $4.50 an ounce, it can be quite expensive.
Ludwig, who is passionate about breastfeeding and its beneficial effects, says she’s been waiting for this opportunity for more than 10 years.
“My hope is that I’m shipping milk to the milk banks frequently. It’s a safe, reliable, easy way to get breast milk to babies who need it,” she said.
The Indiana Mother’s Milk Bank will accept breast milk that’s been stored for up to six months in a regular freezer and eight months in a deep freezer.
Kelly is a freelance writer and a mom to three wild and wonderful children. She has lived in the C-U area for most of her life but is still finding new and interesting things to do in the area.