Breast milk banks helping preemies survive

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center has something called a milk depot which is part of an important pathway to help preemies in the neonatal intensive care unit or NICU.

Here's how it works.

Many healthy newborns do well with infant formula. But many preemies have trouble handling formula and their mothers may have trouble producing breast milk.

That's where human milk depots and banks can play a vital role. Strangers donating breast milk to help these little ones struggling to thrive and survive.

The closest milk bank to St. Louis is in Indianapolis, the Indiana Mothers' Milk Bank. It collects human breast milk and distributes it to hospital neonatal intensive care units. The bank has 17 collection points or depots where mothers can donate their excess milk.

Cardinal Glennon is one of the depots. It's run by Nurse Denise Broeker. Area mothers bring the milk to the depot and she ships it to the Indiana bank to be pasteurized and sterilized to remove any viruses or bacteria. It's then stored. When hospitals need the precious commodity, they buy it from the bank.

Mothers who want to become a donor must apply through the Indiana bank. They have to go through a thorough health screening process which includes a blood test. Some women just have extra milk and want to donate it. Some are mothers whose babies may have died and they want to pass their milk along to someone who can use it.

Laura Forst says she had a lot of extra milk. So when her baby was four months old, she decided to become a donor. Laura felt like breastfeeding had helped keep her baby healthy and maybe her milk could help a little one that needed it. Paying it forward she called it.

Denise Broeker started the Cardinal Glennon Milk Depot a year and a half ago. During its first year, it donated over 16,000 ounces of milk. That ranked second out of 13 depots used by the Indiana bank. She says human milk is so important for growth and brain development in preemies.

One example was little Zander Ramsrud from Rolla who was born Dec 4th, 15 weeks early. He weighed just 2-pounds, 4-ounces when he entered Cardinal Glennon's NICU. His mother, Roseanna, says Zander couldn't handle formula and she was having trouble making enough breast milk. So, the hospital ordered from the Indiana Mothers' Milk Bank. Roseanna says he has gained over 2 pounds in 7 or 8 weeks and is doing well nutritionally. She feels the human breast milk made a big difference.


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