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Got mother's milk? Forrest General meets demand with depot

While most are familiar with hospitals’ constant struggle to maintain their supply of blood, many are unaware that health care facilities also face a challenge when it comes to another life-sustaining liquid — human milk.

Demand for donor human milk in hospital neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) continues to rise. Supply of donor milk has been falling short.

And, one Mississippi hospital is meeting the crisis head-on.

Forrest General Hospital’s new milk depot has only been open for a month; yet, the Hattiesburg hospital has received over 4,000 ounces of donated milk.

I’m ecstatic that it has been so successful. This one intervention is saving the lives of so many premature babies,” said Clint White, M.D., neonatologist at Forrest General.

The Forrest General depot gives lactating mothers a drop-off location for their donations of breast milk. So far 12 women have already been screened as donors from the area, and seven of those are already approved and donating their milk. Women who are currently breastfeeding infants under one year of age are eligible to be screened at no charge to become human milk (aka breast milk) donors.

“I have always been a big promoter of breastfeeding,” said Katherine Rolkosky.

Rolkosky’s daughter, Danielle, received donor milk for at least the first week of her life. Danielle was born at 30 weeks gestation (10 weeks early) and weighed only 3 pounds 3 ounces. Rolkosky was in very critical condition herself (in Adult ICU) for weeks after suffering a weakened immune system. Danielle truly depended on donor milk because her mother was unable to provide milk due to Rolkosky being in critical condition.

“It frustrated me because I wasn’t able to give my daughter the milk she needed; however, the donor breast milk truly made a difference in her life,” said Rolkosky.

Donated milk is transported to the Mothers’ Milk Bank Austin in Austin, Texas. One of the largest suppliers of donor human milk to hospitals across the country, MMBA processes milk to make it safe for preterm infants, and dispenses the milk by prescription for the most fragile babies who need the life-giving and sustaining nutrition of this milk to thrive.

Although a woman can donate her breast milk regardless of where she lives, the milk depot located at Forrest General Hospital makes it easier for all Hattiesburg-area donors to donate this scarce resource that has life-saving impact.

Milk collection sites offer approved donors of expressed breast milk a local place where they can drop off their milk rather than ship it to the milk bank. Although the milk bank covers the shipping charges, dropping off the milk can be much easier on the mom who is working so hard to feed her own infant while also storing milk for other tiny infants.

Mississippians who are interested in donating their breast milk for the benefit of premature, ill and medically fragile infants may call toll-free 1-877-813-6455 to begin the screening process. Forrest General’s Milk Depot accepts breast milk donations from all screened and approved donors.

For information on how to donate, call the Forrest General Lactation Department at (601) 288-3763.


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