Pasteurized donor human milk is an important nutritional therapy for many at-risk Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) babies, as it 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. While WWH supports breastfeeding whenever possible, donor milk can be used when the mother has a low milk supply, is ill or on certain medications, or in cases of adoption or surrogacy.

“Western Wisconsin Health and the lactation team are committed to giving all newborns a healthy start, throughout our community and beyond,” said BreAnn Cook, Registered Nurse and Lactation Counselor at WW Health. “This milk depot is a small way we can be a part of achieving that.”

The milk depot at WWH collects human milk donations from healthy, lactating women who are approved donors through Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes. Donations are stored in a freezer, purchased through a grant awarded to WWH from the Wisconsin Association of Lactation Consultants (WALC), until they are shipped. The donations are then sent to the milk bank, where they are pasteurized to eliminate any viruses and bacteria. After pasteurization, the milk is tested once again for safety and distributed to hospitals.

“Rigorous safety protocols ensure that pasteurized donor human milk is safe when it’s provided from a milk bank that adheres to guidelines from the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. Potential donors are blood tested and thoroughly screened for communicable diseases, activities that increase the risk of blood borne diseases, and the use of tobacco, alcohol, and medications,” says Summer Kelly, Executive Director of Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes. “Milk collected from Western Wisconsin Health’s milk depot will help support the complex nutritional needs of sick and premature babies in Illinois and Wisconsin.”

“For patients experiencing breastfeeding challenges and wanting to provide exclusive breast milk to their babies, the screened and pasteurized human milk available through the milk bank ensures the highest-quality source of donor milk,” said Krista Cleary, Certified Nurse Midwife and Lactation Counselor at WW Health. “Being the first depot in this area, we want to serve as a trusted resource for both donors and new mothers.”

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