Breast milk donations from mothers help others in need
The New York Milk Bank — which coordinates breast milk donations for infants in need — recently moved into a larger space and bought a new pasteurizer so that it can process twice as much of the goods.
Like Danielle Giannone and her husband Justin, who live on Long Island and have been using the milk bank to feed their daughter since she was born in December.
“They really have changed my life,” Giannone, 34, told the Daily News.
The new mom is not alone. Hundreds of recipients have been serviced by the bank since it opened in 2016.
And other banks around the country serve countless others who aren’t able to produce breast milk for a variety of reasons. In fact, one California woman named Tabitha Frost recently got attention for donating more than 117 gallons of breast milk to Prolacta, a Los Angeles-area company that develops human milk products for premature infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Frost, a mom of three who was producing too much milk because of a condition called hyperlactation syndrome, told ABC News she saw it as a way of serving her community. According to Prolacta, the company uses her milk as a human milk fortifier to replace cow milk fortifier in NICUs across the country. A study by the Journal of Pediatrics found that there was a higher rate of surgical necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) — which can destroy the intestines of preemies — in infants who received formula rather than human milk.
Once milk arrives at the New York Milk Bank’s facility, it’s pasteurized and undergoes several rounds of testing before it’s sent to recipients.
“It’s baby’s first vaccine,” Roseanne Motti, operations manager at the New York Milk Bank, said. “It’s full of immune properties and bioactive properties that help the baby.”
As for Giannone, she plans to continue giving her daughter donated breast milk until her first birthday.
“She’s 8 months now and she’s thriving,” the proud mom said. “She really is the cutest little girl ever.”
“I was disappointed that I would not be able to breastfeed because of my condition,” Giannone said. “Her being premature, we were hoping to be able to find donor milk.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be breastfed exclusively for the first six months, and then receive breast milk complemented by other foods for a year or longer. The AAP also advises that if the mother is unable to provide her own milk, pasteurized donor milk should be used.
The Giannones and their child’s doctors had to write letters to their health insurance company to get them to cover the cost of donor breast milk. They were lucky to be granted coverage for a year.
But the Giannones have their own delivery plan. Giannone’s parents live halfway between her home and the bank so her dad, Steven Kirsner, makes a trip there every week for pickup and then drops it off at her house.
“For Father’s Day, we gave him a shirt that says ‘Milk Man,’” Giannone said. “We’re grateful to everyone that has nourished our daughter — the women whose milk is nourishing my daughter, the people at the Milk Bank who work so hard to provide this life-giving milk.”
The New York Milk Bank is part of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, which means it must follow a set of safety guidelines to be accredited. There’s a four-step screening process for donors, Motti says, which includes interviews about everything from medications to travel history, a written application, note from the donors’ and their babies’ doctors and blood tests for diseases.