Regions Hampton Roads

Norfolk hospital plans to open breast milk bank

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Print this page by Veronica Garabelli
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Does milk do a body good? Breast milk certainly has helped babies at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters (CHKD) in Norfolk. That’s one of the reasons the hospital plans to open the first donor human milk bank in Virginia next summer, a $500,000 project.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says human breast milk can decrease complications and infections for premature babies. The cells, hormones and antibodies found in breast milk also can protect babies from illnesses, CHKD states on its website.

The hospital’s goal is to first provide the breast milk to its in-need patients and then extend services to hospitals in Virginia and surrounding states, says Ashlynn Baker, a CHKD nurse who is the hospital’s neonatal network project coordinator.

Though the hospital has gotten a great response to the milk bank plan, it also had to handle the “eww factor” from the public, Baker says. She likes to remind skeptics that the milk is “pasteurized and handled almost identically to a blood transfusion.” 

Interested donors will have to go through a couple steps. First, they must fill out the hospital’s lifestyle questionnaire. Then mother and baby will have to get a medical release form from their doctors stating that the mother is a good candidate for donating milk and that the baby’s getting enough breast milk. After that, the milk donor must get a blood screening to test for diseases.

Breast milk has earned the nickname “liquid gold,” not only for its health benefits, but also its expense in processing and shipping. Most milk banks sell breast milk for about $5 per ounce.

CHKD foots the bill for its in-need patients since donor breast milk is not covered by insurance, Baker says. The hospital currently is getting breast milk for patients from milk banks in other states.

“We consider it as valuable as medication for our patients,” Baker says. “We hope down the line insurance companies will see it that way.”

Most milk banks don’t provide milk for outpatients, Baker says, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a possibility for CHKD’s milk bank.

“I would love not to have to turn anybody down for donor milk,” Baker says. “It just depends on our donors and our supplies.”

Women interested in donating milk before the launch of CHKD’s milk bank may donate to WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank in Raleigh, N.C.


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