By Kelly Youngblood
It’s been one year since the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District became a depot site for breast milk donations and the program is flourishing, thanks to a very supportive community of moms.
“We built it and they came,” said Heather Ludwig, who works for the CUHPD as a nutritionist and lactation consultant for Women, Infants and Children. “We knew we had a lot of support for it and knew that there were some local donors, but we’ve had what I consider to be a wonderful response to it. These moms are amazing.”
Ludwig said since the milk depot officially opened on June 20, 2014, the Champaign health department has shipped more than 8,000 ounces of breast milk.
All of the breast milk that is collected at the CUPHD is shipped to The Milk Bank (formerly known as Indiana Mother’s Milk Bank), which then distributes the milk to infants in need throughout the United States.
Breann Swan-Figueroa, a family nurse practitioner at the CUHPD, just started donating a month ago but is already feeling grateful for the opportunity. Swan-Figueroa says she’s donating to honor a daughter she lost a year ago.
“It really means a lot to have found such a positive way of providing recognition for my baby in a way that helps other mothers and babies in difficult situations,” she said.
Since the CUHPD Milk Depot opened, Ludwig said mothers have traveled from Springfield, Decatur and Bloomington to drop off their donations.
“I can’t believe how far people have driven because they want to use the depot. It just blew me away,” she said.
Ludwig, who hopes similar programs will begin operating in other areas of the state, says the depot makes it much more convenient for moms to donate breast milk because it eliminates the need for them to store and ship the milk themselves.
“If we make it more convenient, more women feel like it’s something they can do and that just means more babies are going to get milk,” she said.
Ludwig would eventually like to make the process even easier for women by offering them the opportunity to complete the prescreening blood work at the CUHPD. Currently, potential donors have to get blood work done at their doctor’s office before they can donate.
Swan-Figueroa says she worried at first the application process might be too difficult or involved but she didn’t have any issues with the paperwork or the lab work, which she was able to complete locally.
“Breast milk donation through the Milk Bank was definitely a positive experience for me and I would highly recommend that other lactating mothers donate their breast milk if they are at all able to do so,” she said.