Moms can donate to ‘milk depot’

Patti Kasper

“When I first heard about breast milk sharing, I thought it was disgustingly gross,” recalls Patti Kasper. “Now I understand why moms chose it. Now I get it.”

A registered nurse and an international board certified lactation consultant with Human Services of Faribault and Martin Counties, Kasper has been working through her office to create a Fairmont milk depot, a place where moms who have extra breast milk can drop it off after they have gone through a screening process.

“These moms know the huge benefits of breastfeeding so when they have extra breast milk, they can donate it for other babies that need it,” Kasper said.

Before moving back to her Fairmont hometown a few years ago, Kasper worked at a Twin Cities hospital that served as a milk depot. At the time, Minnesota did not have its own milk bank so donations were shipped out of state and processed. Any Minnesota hospitals that needed donor milk, perhaps for infants in neonatal intensive care units, had to purchase the milk from the bank.

But that is changing. The Minnesota Milk Bank for Babies soon will be opening in Golden Valley, according to Evelyn Lindholm, who also is a registered nurse and international board certified lactation consultant at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. Lindholm has spent more than six years working with the Human Milk Banking Association of North America to establish a milk bank in the state. Currently there are 25 banks in the country and three in Canada. The closest ones are located in Colorado, Illinois and eastern Iowa.

In 2012, more than 4,000 wildfires ravaged Colorado, making it impossible for Minnesota hospitals to purchase from the Denver milk bank.

“That was a red flag that we needed our own milk bank in Minnesota so we started in the fall of 2012,” Lindholm said. “It’s taken that long for education and to bring the money in. It was baby steps. We just had to have enough people believe in what we’re doing.”

Subsequent disasters such as Hurricane Harvey in Texas and the recent California fires also diverted milk bank supplies to those impacted areas.

“We really wanted to make sure Minnesota has their babies covered,” Lindholm said.

She admits she was surprised that establishing a milk bank would take her and six other volunteers more than six years to accomplish but says the time spent was worth it.

“The hospitals are excited to be buying from us. They keep asking when we’ll be ready. We’re in the process of our inspections. We have to pass the state Department of Agriculture and [Milk Banking Association] inspections, and then we’ll be ready to go.”

Lindholm is hoping to have the milk bank operational this month.

“The women who donate are incredible women,” Lindholm said. “They’re right in your community, and they are the ones who are saving the lives of many babies. These mothers need to be acknowledged for what they are doing. It’s the moms that are really the heroes in this, the ones who care enough to think beyond themselves to help others.”

Kasper explained how the donation process will work.

“If a mom has extra milk, she can contact us at the milk depot at Human Services,” she said. “We’ll ask a bunch of questions about diet, medications and screen her that way. If she passes that screening, we’ll send her a kit that she can take to the clinic of her choice. It’s free to the mom. She won’t be spending any money.

“Once she passes all that criteria, she will get a donor number. She just puts the number on a bag of milk that she can bring to us. We will log it in and put it in our freezer until the milk bank picks it up. They pasteurize it, and it comes back to our area.”

Breast milk will last up to six months if properly refrigerated and up to one year if properly frozen.

Lindholm said there never has been a safety issue with donated breast milk.

“After it’s gone through the screening and pasteurization, it’s actually safer than a blood transfusion,” Kasper said.

For more information about the milk depot, call Kasper at Human Services (507) 238-4757.

Information about the Minnesota milk bank can be obtained at www.mnmilkbank.org

COMMENTS