In an effort to help women and babies in Central Florida, Florida Hospital officially opened the first Milk Depot in Central Florida. The Florida Hospital Milk Depot will serve as a convenient drop off location to moms who are looking to donate breast milk to help other babies, especially at-risk preemies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), receive crucial nutrition. The opening of the Milk Depot is part of Florida Hospital’s continued commitment to providing women and babies with the most comprehensive medical resources available.
“In the United States, there is a critical shortage of donor human milk,” said Kari Vargas, assistant vice president at Florida Hospital Orlando. “Donating breast milk is truly a labor of love, and the opening of the Milk Depot will hopefully remove some of the barriers from the donation process and make it more convenient for moms to donate this precious gift.”
Local moms throughout Central Florida have already been rallying around this cause.
“My daughter was born two and a half months early so I know how scary it can be to have a premature infant,” said Bethany Bergen, mom to daughter Piper, now 8 months old. “I knew I wanted to breastfeed and it was easy for me. I cannot imagine the stress that moms who are unable to breastfeed go through. I was able to donate my extra breast milk, and it was so rewarding to know there was something I could do to help other babies in need.”
The Academy of Pediatrics recommends pasteurized donor human milk to premature infants when a mother’s own milk is not available. Research shows that human milk is especially important for preterm and sick babies who are at a much greater risk of infections. Human milk helps babies build strong immune systems and is easier on the digestive system than formula. In 2012, Florida Hospital required the use of nearly 10,000 ounces of donor milk.
“In the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Florida Hospital, we instituted a protocol several years ago to give breast milk to babies who were born at 29 weeks or less or weighing less than 1500 grams. As a result, we have seen a tremendous reduction in the number of infections and life-threatening diseases,” said Dr. Raj Wadhawan, medical director of the NICU at Florida Hospital for Children. “Donor human milk is a great option for moms who are unable to breastfeed since it provides critical nutrition for the baby and can truly be a lifesaving part of their treatment.”
All mothers who donate at the Milk Depot will be pre-screened and tested through an intensive process to ensure that they are healthy and their own child’s wellbeing is not being compromised. Since there are only 11 Milk Banks in the United States and none in Florida, Florida Hospital is affiliated with the Mother’s Milk Bank in Denver. Once a mom brings her donation to the Milk Depot, Florida Hospital will store the milk in a deep freeze and then package and ship the donation to Denver for processing. The donor milk is pasteurized and tested prior to bottling to ensure that it is safe for the baby and is also nutritionally sound. The Milk Bank then distributes the donor human milk based on need to the most at risk infants.
The opening of the Milk Depot is just one way Florida Hospital is continuing to provide comprehensive resources and medical care to women and babies. The Milk Depot will be located in the Lactation Center across the street from Florida Hospital Orlando. Florida Hospital Orlando is currently building a new 12-story Women’s Hospital that will provide comprehensive care for women of all ages. The hospital is expected to open in 2015.
To find out more information on becoming a donor, please call 407-303-2599.