UConn Health’s Milk Depot Celebrates First Anniversary

Felicia Filomeno breastfeeds her newborn baby boy Luca. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health photo)

With just over 12,000 ounces donated to date – which translates into almost 37,000 meals for premature babies… the milk depot turns one!

The milk depot opened on Aug. 30, 2018 at UConn John Dempsey Hospital. It 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. This was the fifth location in Connecticut to join Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast. The nonprofit community milk bank, accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, distributes donated, pasteurized human milk to babies in fragile health throughout the Northeast.

“We have gotten tremendous support from our donor moms over the last year, and the overall support has been overwhelming,” says Marisa Merlo, lactation consultant for UConn Health’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “A great number of premature babies have benefited from the milk depot’s donations, and we are so pleased to be a part of the effort to provide this incredible source of nutrition. We look forward to the continued support from the Greater Hartford community.”

The donations are accepted by Merlo at UConn Health and are safeguarded in the milk depot’s freezer. The frozen milk is then shipped to Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast for pasteurization processing and distribution to their network of NICUs.

Breast milk can benefit a baby’s overall survival, healthy growth and development, and immunity. It is the clinical gold standard for infant feeding and nutrition, with breast milk uniquely tailored to meet the health needs of a growing baby. The CDC, WHO, and American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines all recommend that babies be breastfed or receive breast milk for the first six months of their life, if possible. Breastfeeding for six months is also one of the top 10 cancer prevention recommendations by the American Institute for Cancer Research.

“Premature babies get three meals from each donated ounce of breast milk,” added Merlo. “We are so thankful to everyone who has helped us during this last year, especially our donor moms who have been with us since the beginning. More than 1,000 ounces have been donated each month, and we’re extremely proud of that.”