Healthier Moms and Healthier Babies

Marisa Merlo, lactation consultant, UConn Health accepts breast pump donations from Heidi Voight, NBC CT Reporter

Research shows that breastfeeding offers many health benefits for infants and mothers, as well as potential economic and environmental benefits for communities.

When Natalee Martin, Associate Director of Development, UConn Health, University of Connecticut Foundation Inc. heard that not all mothers had access to breast pumps upon leaving the hospital, she knew she had to do something.

Natalee Martin, Associate Director of Development, UConn Health, University of Connecticut Foundation, Inc., collecting breast pumps with her daughters Isabel, 6 and Abigail 9.

Last year, Martin reached out via social media to her group of friends and asked for donations of breast pumps. She was overwhelmed when she and her daughters collected 30 pumps.

“As soon as I put the call out to friends, it was like a sisterhood of moms who all knew how important it was to help other mothers,” says Martin.

While most insurance companies cover the cost of a breast pump, not all moms have access upon leaving the hospital due to delay of delivery of the machine or insurance plan limitations.

Many of the donated pumps are brand new, used machines are cleaned and disinfected and all the pumps are provided to moms with new sealed kits.

Marisa Merlo, lactation consultant, obstetrics and gynecology at UConn Health reached out to Martin when she gave the last donated unit away and she jumped into action to do it all again, collecting yet another 30 breast pumps this holiday season.

It is well documented that breastfeeding provides numerous benefits to both mother and child and is recommended exclusively for the first six months of life.

“Breast milk increases the effectiveness of vaccines and neurological development and it decreases ear and gastrointestinal infections as well as the risk of obesity and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) in babies,” states Merlo. “It’s also very important for the mother as well, decreasing the risk of breast and ovarian cancers and osteoporosis, not to mention increasing bonding.”

The pumps are provided to any mother who is in need of one. In addition to the breast pumps, there is a fund, Mothers and Family Support Fund, to help buy parts for machines, education, rides and meal vouchers for new parents.

“You can’t get any more natural than breast milk. Healthier moms and healthier babies is the goal,” says Merlo.

“I was grateful to have insurance that provided me with a breast pump and understand the benefits of breast feeding and I want that to be accessible to other moms,” says Martin who plans on continuing to collect breast pumps as long as there is a need.

Anyone interested in donating a breast pump or to the Mothers and Family Support Fund can contact Natalee Martin at 860.576.1680 or