08 Jan Pittsburgh mother’s milk bank seeking additional donors
Tribune-Review (January 8, 2022) – Thanks to the efforts of nearly 2,000 carefully screened volunteer donors, the Mid-Atlantic Mother’s Milk Bank distributed its 1 millionth ounce of pasteurized human donor milk since its establishment in 2016.
Pasteurized donor human milk provides critical nutrients and immunological support for medically fragile babies, and is used regularly in the region’s neonatal intensive-care units, or NICUs.
But with increasing demand from NICUs and the persistence of the covid-19 pandemic, officials at the Pittsburgh-based bank are hoping to increase the donor pool.
“We distributed a record-high 294,334 ounces of pasteurized donor milk in 2021 and are seeing demand rise among NICUs and outpatients with medical issues,” said the bank’s executive director Denise O’Connor. “The pandemic may be driving some of the current need, as increased NICU use of donor milk is being reported in many parts of the world, including here in Pennsylvania.”
O’Connor said the bank has seen a 25% increase in NICU use of donor milk, compared to the same time frame in 2020.
Starting out as the Three Rivers Mother’s Milk Bank on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh, it became the Mid-Atlantic Mother’s Milk Bank shortly after, serving clients in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland and shipping milk throughout the U.S., including to other milk banks.
Donor milk is provided by screened volunteer donor mothers, and undergoes bottling, pasteurization and testing to ensure its safety. Milk bank officials are accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America and licensed by the state Health Department.
While babies in NICU units are the primary recipients, O’Connor said donor milk use is increasing for outpatients with significant medical issues, and even healthy babies, both in hospital natal units and in the early days at home if supplementation is necessary.
“It’s not just nutrition — it’s medicine,” O’Connor said. “The need is still there — and growing — so we are encouraging all moms who already supply enough milk for their own babies and are ready to clear some room in their freezer, to join the dedicated corps of donors who support the nutrition of the neediest babies.”