UConn Health is opening the first hospital-based breast milk depot in the state.
The organization is now partnering with Mothers Milk Northeast. Donor moms can drop off breast milk at the hospital, and the staff makes sure it gets to babies in need.
“It is incredibly important for these premature babies to receive mother’s own milk,” said Marisa Merlo, UConn Health lactation consultant. “If the mom is unable to produce enough milk, the best alternative diet for these babies is donor human milk.”
“We screen donor moms, we collect donor human milk, we pasteurize it and we distributed primarily to neonatal intensive care units,” said Cynthia Cohen of Mother’s Milk Bank Northeast.
Mom Stephanie Aheart has spent a lot of time in the neonatal intensive Carle unit at UConn Health, and she says she knows the importance of breast milk.
“We had premature twins at 21 weeks so they were born very early,” she said. “They did not survive. Then we went on to get pregnant with Jordan and he was born early at 29 weeks he was 3 pounds 5 ounces and was in the UConn NICU.”
She says every ounce of effort is worth it.
“He did receive donor milk in the NICU until I was able to feed him and pump enough to sustain him,” Aheart said. “And I do donate now. I’ve donated thousands of ounces.”