By Kelly Youngblood
The Champaign Urbana Public Health District made it easy for local moms to donate excess breast milk with the opening of a milk depot in 2014.
Now, they’ve made it simple for those seeking donor breast milk with the opening of a milk dispensary.
CUPHD opened a milk dispensary in April 2020, providing families with infants and children the opportunity to purchase pasteurized donor milk locally.
Valerie Koress, a breastfeeding coordinator at CUPHD, says the milk is for families who would prefer to use screened, pasteurized donor human milk instead of cow’s milk-based formula when their health care provider recommends supplementation.
“Pasteurized donor human milk provides numerous benefits in the absence of the mother’s milk, including infection-fighting factors, active growth and development hormones, improved digestion and ideal nutrition,” said Koress.
The milk dispensary at CUPHD is available as a walk-in service, and can distribute up to 10 bottles of pasteurized donor human milk without a doctor’s prescription. The milk is supplied by the Mother’s Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes.
CUPHD receives about three to five donations per month from the Mother’s Milk Bank, ranging from 100 to 1,000 ounces per donation.
Koress said the milk dispensary was slow to gain momentum as it opened near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but has seen a significant increase in use over the past six months.
Kathleen Winters can personally attest to the importance of the milk dispensary for her family.
Winters relied on donor breast milk from the dispensary earlier this year after the birth of her son, Oliver. Oliver had a few concerning blood sugar readings after he was born so Winters, a WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor for the CUPHD, decided to purchase donor milk while waiting for her milk volume to increase.
“(Valerie Koress) dropped off one bottle the first night we were home from the hospital and two more the following day. My milk transitioned quickly and Oliver remained healthy and at a stable weight,” said Winters.
She added, “We were overjoyed to have avoided needing the NICU and grateful that, once we were home, we were able to keep Oliver healthy with breastmilk alone. Thank you so much to the mothers who donated the milk!”
CUPHD became a drop-off site for breast milk donors seven years ago, making it more convenient for moms in the area to donate. All of the breast milk that is collected at the CUPHD is shipped to The Milk Bank in Indianapolis for processing and redistribution.
As far as the depot goes, Koress said not much has changed since the start of the pandemic, although CUPHD now offers curbside drop-off. However, Koress believes the pandemic may have impacted the decisions of breastfeeding women to become donors, and may have impacted their approval process, which happens between The Milk Bank and the mother.
The Milk Bank donor approval process includes a phone screening, signed forms by the infant’s pediatrician and the mother’s obstetrician, and a blood sample at a nearby lab at the cost of the Milk Bank. For more information about becoming a donor, click here.
Koress said mothers can also donate milk after the loss of an infant, which has helped some families through the grieving process, through The Milk Bank’s bereavement program.