Urgent Need for Milk Donors

Pasteurized donor human milk (PDHM) can be lifesaving for preterm infants and currently the need is outweighing the supply.

In 2018, UConn John Dempsey Hospital was the first hospital in Connecticut, and only location in the Greater Hartford Area, to serve as a milk depot for breast milk donations for newborns in need.  At that time UConn Health’s milk depot joined Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, a nonprofit community milk bank accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, which distributes donated, pasteurized human milk to babies in fragile health throughout the Northeast.

Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, a nonprofit human milk bank serving over 100 hospitals as well as outpatients, is facing an urgent need for new milk donors. Hospital and outpatient demand for pasteurized donor human milk has increased 15% since March 2021. Demand will soon outpace supply unless new milk donors volunteer for screening.

“Our milk depot at UConn John Dempsey Hospital benefits our tiniest patients in NICUs across Connecticut and the Northeast, including our very own, the Connecticut Children’s NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) here at UConn Health,” says Marisa Merlo, lactation consultant for UConn Health’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

While donor milk is now widely used for preterm babies in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), an increasing number of hospitals are also offering it for full- and near-term babies, as well as for outpatients leaving the hospital. These uses have also driven up demand. In these cases, it can be offered as a supplement, or “bridge milk,” until the mother’s own milk supply increases, and for issues such as hypoglycemia, hyperbilirubinemia, excessive weight loss, and latch problems.

Women interested in donating their breast milk can directly contact Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast to apply for eligibility and screening. Once women become eligible to donate, their breast milk donations will be accepted by Merlo at UConn Health and safeguarded at its Milk Depot Room’s freezer. Merlo and her staff will safely ship the frozen milk to Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast for pasteurization processing and distribution to their network of NICUs.

Urgent need: how to help

Healthy lactating women who wish to learn more and start the screening can visit the milk bank’s website, email donate@milkbankne.org, or call 617-527-6263 x3.