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Nourishing Life through the Milk Bank/Depot at Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Women's Health Resource Center

Baby bottle on blue background

It is a really important resource not only for the women and babies in our ICN, the Birthing Pavilion and patients at DHMC, but also to fill the needs for others in our community.

Emily Brayton, BSN, RN

When Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC)’s Lactation Services Coordinator Lisa Lamadriz, MPH, RN, IBCLC, and Bonny Whalen, MD, championed bringing pasteurized donor human milk to the Intensive Care Nursery (ICN) in 2010, the idea of a working milk bank and depository seemed so far away. Through education about the benefits of providing pasteurized donor human milk, instead of formula, to fragile babies—along with raising awareness about challenges some new mothers have producing a reliable milk supply—they and their team of lactation consultants successfully received approval to maintain two freezers for pasteurized donor human milk to benefit babies in the ICN and Birthing Pavilion.

Today, they are celebrating the newly opened Milk Bank/Depot housed at Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s (D-H) Women’s Health Resource Center (WHRC) in Lebanon.   

Donations Help Recipients—and Donors

The WHRC partners with Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast in Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts, which pasteurizes donor human milk received from locations throughout the Northeast Region, and processes individual prescription payments. The prescription payment covers the pasteurizing and processing of the milk after it has been donated. Milk donations are accepted from approved donors at the WHRC and then sent to Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast for processing. Quality assurance and testing measures ensure the milk is safe, and then it is shipped to the WHRC for dispensing.

Mothers with babies in the ICN may produce a lot of milk, but their babies may not need the amount the mother is producing. Milk donation is something these mothers can do to help other moms. Also, donating milk after the loss of a baby can be therapeutic for women.

Mothers interested in donating milk can contact the WHRC, which will arrange for free testing. This includes a phone screening, application and blood test. For more information, contact the WHRC at (603) 650-2600 or whrc@hitchcock.org.

“It’s really exciting to see how sustainable pasteurized donor human milk is now, and how entrenched it is in the culture of our organization,” Lamadriz says. “Pasteurized donor human milk was simply not on the radar before. Fortunately it is now recognized as an important part of health care for infants and their families.” And Emily Brayton, BSN, RN, unit nurse manager, DHMC Birthing Pavilion, explains, “It is a really important resource not only for the women and babies in our ICN, the Birthing Pavilion and patients at DHMC, but also to fill the needs for others in our community.”

The WHRC maintains an average of 150 bottles of donor milk, according to manager and educator Krista Duval, CPC, CPSTI (child passenger safety technician instructor). The supply is locked and alarmed to maintain adequate temperature readings. Access to the donor milk is through a prescription, whether you are a D-H patient or not. For those who are not D-H patients, they can also receive milk with a prescription from a lactation consultant, OB/GYN or pediatrician.

The amount of milk dispensed to each recipient depends on the written prescription, and if needed, there is financial assistance available for qualifying families to pay the cost of the prescription—pasteurized donor human milk is $13.50 per 3.4 ounces. Duval explains that some mothers only need donor human milk for a short time until their breast pump arrives, or until they build up their own milk supply. And, for babies with infectious diseases, short gut syndrome or other health challenges they also benefit from human milk.

Lamadriz says the best option for newborns is maternal milk, followed by pasteurized donor human milk. “Research demonstrates that infants who received human milk are much less likely to suffer respiratory and gastrointestinal illness,” says Brayton.


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