05.Sep.2014 Birth Place goes on tour to the Mothers’ Milk Bank!

Last week, Stacey and Terri from the Birth Place toured the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Montana.

A little history first: A while back we had an eager little baby who wanted to be born before 36.5 weeks gestation. And as you all know, at the Birth Place we can care for low risk, full term, moms and babies. So this little eager tyke was appropriately born at the hospital. We got great care and our baby had a beautiful birth. And then, as can be the case, our new little friend didn’t quite have the coordination to nurse. She needed a little help. Her mom and dad were dedicated to getting her the breast milk and colostrum she needed to get off to a good start. And although they were expressing, and spoon feeding, and skin-to-skin, and doing all the things that a family needs to do to support their baby, the medical staff recommended supplementing — at least until mom’s milk came in and the baby was able to coordinate her suck/swallow/breathe responses enough to nurse. Of course! We all wanted to do what was best for the baby. Let’s supplement with mother’s milk from the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Montana. [“Over the years WHO has had a remarkably consistent policy with regard to human milk banking. In 1979, WHO and UNICEF issued a joint resolution on infant and young child feeding that was fully endorsed by the World Health Assembly in 1980. The “first alternative” when a mother is unable to breastfeed should be human breast milk, using banked donor milk where appropriate and available” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1766344/]

Well, things went a little sideways at this point. We were told a lot of things the ended up being not true — that donor milk cost $100.00/ounce. Ouch — but this family was willing to pay. Then we were told that they couldn’t get any donor milk to the hospital for days. Then we were told that we had to supplement with formula — no other options. It seemed obvious that we were the first folks asking for human milk and that the process wasn’t in place to provide donor milk.

Our parents were aware of the importance of human milk for human babies. They are also actively involved in promoting food quality, not using GMOs, not eating factory made foods. Similac was exactly the opposite of what they believed in. And, of course, they wanted to do what was best for the baby. Lots of conversation and a few tears later their medical staff agreed to allow organic formula from outside of the hospital to be used for supplementation. Baby thrived with more calories. Mom/Dad/baby went home. Mom’s milk came in and this eager child has been exclusively enjoying her own mother’s milk since her first week of life. Yay!

Happy ending for our family — But what is the truth about donor milk? And next time a baby needs a little help, how do we get human milk? The Mothers’ Milk Bank of Montana is pretty new on the scene and clearly no one in Bozeman knew exactly how to get the milk we needed when we needed it.  Birth Place went to Missoula to find the answers.

The Mothers’ Milk Bank of Montana shares an office with the Nursing Nook, a full-service breast feeding supply store. The Nursing Nook has everything from bras and pads to pumps and nursing pillows.

Linsey, Jessica, and Jennifer welcomed us warmly and gave us a wonderful tour.

We were able to watch the pasteurization process, learn about milk donation, milk collection, and milk distribution.

A few facts: Mothers’ Milk costs $4.00/ounce (a far more reasonable price than the $100/ounce we were quoted). The Mothers’ Milk Bank is a member of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America and follows its best practices.

The wonderful women who donate milk are screened for risk factors. Their blood is tested. And then their milk is tested. Every time. At the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Montana, each donation is labeled in such a way that it can be followed from donation, through pasteurization, testings, and distribution.

Technology has made milk donation and pasteurization much easier. All the temperatures in the fridges/freezers are monitored electronically. Daily e-mails with the temperatures are sent to the Mothers’ Milk Bank phone. And an immediate alert would be sent if any temperatures moves outside of the normal range.

The Mother’s Milk Bank of Montana is actively concerned about the environment we leave our kids. They prefer to use glass milk jars that can be re-sterilized, or at the very least, recycled. They have great sources for donor milk storage too. Obviously they know which milk storage containers are more likely to leak or to get contaminated with household bacteria. Their recommended milk storage bags are HoneySuckle Breastmilk Storage Bags — durable and biodegradable.

Human milk saves lives. Very preterm babies are susceptible to a horrible disease called Necrotizing Enterocolitis which is the second leading cause of death in preterm infants. Feeding preterm babies human milk drastically reduces these deaths.

Human milk is the appropriate food for all human babies. As we found at the Birth Place, sometimes we need just a few ounces to help bridge the time between when a baby needs calories and when a mother’s milk is in. Sometimes, in the case of babies born after a woman has a mastectomy or an adopted infant, the mother cannot produce milk, or enough milk, to support her baby. Donor milk, given at the breast or in a bottle, is the appropriate food for babies.


Donating milk is one of the most meaningful gifts a woman can give. The Mothers’ Milk Bank of Montana makes donation easy. For more information on how to donate contact the MMB.

Donor milk preserves the vast majority of the nutrients and antibodies found in fresh human milk. Donor milk certainly is superior to formula. To get donor milk for your baby, you need a prescription from your health care provider. Insurance companies and even Montana Medicaid have paid for human milk, although the guidelines for payment are still being developed. At most it would take 24 hours to get donor milk delivered via FedEx. However, passionate volunteers are available to drive milk to families in need in many instances.  The very best policy would be for every hospital, birth center, and midwife to have a small stock of donor milk available.  If hospitals can keep formula in stock, they certainly should be able to house a few ounces of donor milk. We at the Birth Place are looking into how we can better support all babies getting only human milk.

Thank you again to Linsey, Jessica, and Jennifer for showing us the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Montana and for teaching us about the benefits of human milk for all babies. We are so happy that you are doing the work that you do!

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