Anyone not familiar with the benefits of breast milk might be puzzled by human donor milk banks. But the idea is an old one, dating back centuries. Now, new moms are resorting to the 21st-century version of breast feeding: bottled donor mother’s milk.
Donor milk offers a welcome alternative to formula, a cow’s milk mixture that lacks the antibodies and digestive enzymes that help keep newborns healthy. For moms not able to breastfeed, donor milk is the next best thing, says Lactation Consultant and Nurse Practitioner JoAnn Gould of Phelps Memorial Hospital Center in Sleepy Hollow, the first hospital in Westchester to offer inpatient mothers the option of human donor breast milk.
Gould and other local breastfeeding advocates, as part of the Westchester Putnam Rockland Lactation Consortium, Inc., have worked to make this option available to Westchester patients via the Hudson Valley Milk Bank, the first community-based milk bank in New York. The bank provides Phelps with donor milk that is stored in a specialized refrigerator at the bank’s office in Irvington, or connects Phelps directly with the processing facility, Mothers’ Milk Bank at WakeMed Health & Hospitals, in North Carolina.
Emilie Jacobs, a 34-year-old medical student, was able to sustain her five-week-old newborn on donor milk provided by the Hudson Valley Milk Bank in May when her baby was not able to latch on to her mother’s breast.
“I had no idea that donor milk was even available,” Jacobs says. “I wanted to keep her on a consistent breast-milk diet until I was able to breastfeed her again. Finding out that this was available was a game-changer.” The milk, donated free-of-charge by lactating women who produce more milk than their children need, costs $5 per ounce.