COLORADO SPRINGS — Premature babies face a number of challenges as it is, and one of those is getting the nutrients they need. Children's Hospital in Colorado Springs has always been able to provide those babies with donor breast milk if the mother cannot, but now, they are also offering a donation service where moms can give their breast milk to others in need.
News5 met with a mother who benefited from the donor breast milk while her daughter was in the NICU at Children's Hospital. Francy Martinez Nunez said her first baby, named Nairobi, was born around a month early. When an infant is born that early, the mother's body may not be producing milk at that point. Martinez Nunez said after seeing the way the donor milk helped her child, she decided to make a donation of her own when she was ready. "I know they're going through a lot right now, the ones [mothers and children] that are here, but they'll get through it," said Martinez Nunez.
Tina Means is a senior lead milk technician at Children's Hospital, where she helps prepare all the human milk and formula feedings for babies at the hospital. Means said the hospital gets their donor human milk from the Mothers' Milk Bank in Arvada. The milk bank pasteurizes and processes the milk they receive, then ships it out to hospitals throughout the Front Range. Now, Southern Colorado moms can help contribute to the milk bank's supply. "The new part now is that we're able to collect donations and send them to Mothers' Milk Bank, so it's kind of completing the circle... It's very important for our babies that are born with challenges due to drug exposure in utero, and it's also important for babies that are born with gastrointestinal issues," said Means, who's own son was in the NICU around 20 years ago, and also benefited from donor human milk.
Means also said the babies with the most need for human donor milk are micro-preemie babies, which weigh less than one pound. She said moms do not have to be a patient to purchase the donor milk from Mother's Milk Bank, and that it sells at around $20 for every four ounce bottle. Means said a premature baby typically consumes anywhere from one ounce to three ounces of milk a day, but that varies from baby to baby, and day to day.
There are certain qualifications a mother must meet before being able to make a donation. They must be less than 18 months postpartum, in good health, and be supplying an abundance of milk beyond what their child requires. The process then begins with a questionnaire from Mother's Milk Bank, a short phone interview to learn more about the mother's medical history and their child's health, and then a blood test which can be done at a Quest Diagnostics location free of charge. Once all of those steps have been completed, the mother can drop off her milk with Children's Hospital in Colorado Springs, and they will make sure it gets to the milk bank in Arvada.
Those with Children's Hospital also said formula is still a great option for mother's who may not be producing enough milk, but for babies born prematurely, with gastrointestinal issues, or exposed to certain substances, the breast milk can provide them with certain immunities they need.