Breast milk has health benefits for all babies. For medically fragile and premature babies, it can be lifesaving. There are a variety of reasons that breastfeeding may not be an option, and when a newborn needs care in a neonatal intensive care unit, prematurity is the number one reason a mom can’t provide her own breast milk. Meanwhile, some new moms produce more milk than their child needs. Mercy Jefferson now helps connects these families by serving as an official collection site for The Milk Bank.
“Moms appreciate the chance to support other moms,” said Chandra Alsop, director of women’s services at Mercy Jefferson. “Knowing how valuable breast milk is to babies makes it heart breaking for moms who have any extra that may go to waste. Offering those mothers in the Jefferson County community this chance to donate is a win-win. It gives them the convenience to donate close to home, and it provides a valuable resource to fragile newborns in need of their support.”
The Milk Bank is a nonprofit organization that has been serving Missouri since 2006. They primarily serve babies in hospital neonatal intensive care units, including Mercy St. Louis, because research shows human milk helps protect hospitalized infants from common issues of prematurity such as necrotizing enterocolitis, retinopathy of prematurity and neurodevelopmental outcomes. The Milk Bank can also help connect families to safe donor milk through their outpatient program.
Once parents complete an online screening form with The Milk Bank, donated breast milk collected at Mercy Jefferson is packaged and shipped to The Milk Bank for processing. Donated milk then goes through a careful intake process before heading to the lab for screening, analysis and pasteurization. These are just some of the important layers of safety that take place before milk is dispensed to hospitals or outpatient families.
“Milk donated through Mercy Jefferson’s milk depot can support babies in a Mercy hospital, other hospitals or at home with their families,” Alsop said. “Supporting the health of the entire community benefits us all.”
This program is just one example of Mercy giving back to its communities. Mercy provided free care and other community benefits like this, along with traditional charity care and unreimbursed Medicaid, worth more than half a billion dollars to Mercy’s communities in fiscal year 2023.
Moms interested in donating can visit themilkbank.org/donate-milk to start the screening process. For questions or to schedule a drop off, please call 636-933-1395.