GREENFIELD — Donating breast milk gets a whole lot easier in Hancock County on Thursday when Hancock Regional Hospital becomes a milk bank depot.
In partnership with The Milk Bank in Indianapolis, the hospital will become a human milk collection site for area mother donors.
“The point is to make it as easy as possible and convenient as possible for those interested in donating,” said Linda Garrity, hospital community education coordinator. “Our research indicated there weren’t any drop-off points east and southeast of Marion County.”
The Milk Bank is the only organization in Indiana that collects and provides human milk to help premature babies, said Janice O’Rourke, milk bank executive director.
“This is an area that we’ve been very interested in having a depot,” O’Rourke said. “Donors would either have to drive it to us or ship it, and that involves a box and dry ice,” she said.
The Milk Bank pasteurizes and freezes the donated milk and then provides it to hospital neo-natal units, which is the bank’s highest priority, O’Rourke said.
Pasteurized donor human milk is used for pre- and post-operative nutrition, illness requiring temporary interruption of breastfeeding, prematurity, malabsorption syndromes and other infant conditions, according the organization’s website.
O’Rourke said one study conducted in 2009 indicated a shortfall of some 7 million ounces between the need for donated milk and the amount that is actually donated.
“There is always a shortage,” Garrity said.
To be a donor candidate, women should be in good general health, not regularly using medication or herbal supplements – with a few exceptions – and willing to donate 100 ounces of milk by their babies’ second birthday.
The screening process involves a 15-minute phone interview, completion of an informational packet with forms signed by the mother’s pediatrician and obstetrician and a blood test, the cost of which is covered by the bank.
Those who use illegal drugs, tobacco products or smoke and those at risk for or testing positive for certain diseases are not eligible, the bank’s website states.
Currently there are approximately a dozen mother donors in Hancock County with another five or so in the approval process, said Lauren Duncan, milk bank mother donor coordinator.
In addition to making the donation of human milk more convenient, establishing a drop-off facility raises awareness of the process and the need in the area, Duncan said.
Once the depot is up and running, Garrity said mother donors will be able to call ahead to have hospital personnel waiting to pick the milk up curbside.
“We’ll have people walk to the car and get it at the hospital front entrance,” she said. “But they will have to call ahead and make arrangements.”
Organizers are planning a 3 p.m. grand opening and ribbon cutting at the hospital Thursday to mark the creation of the depot.
“It’s a health issue,” Garrity said. “We’re improving the health of the baby. The more people that donate, the more babies we can help.”
To find out more about becoming a mother donor, contact The Milk Bank at (317) 536-1670 or go online to www.themilkbank.org.
To contact Hancock Regional about the program, call Garrity at (317) 468-4383.