Avera Medical Minute: Donated breast milk at local hospitals helps new moms

PIERRE, S.D. - Many women who choose to feed their baby breast milk may have leftover milk that they don't know what to do with. There are several places they can donate it though, including at local hospitals.

Jennie Boe looks back on the 7 1/2 weeks her little girl, Mya, stayed in the hospital in 2017.

"She was born with a critical blood sugar. I hemorrhaged, and she had swelled in fluid and had some heart issues. When she was first born, we knew right before the delivery, she still had a hole in her heart that had not closed," Boe said.

Jennie is a Type 1 diabetic, so her pregnancy was considered high-risk. She didn't have any concerns until the end though. Her blood pressure spiked and wouldn't go down. So she was induced in Sioux Falls at 37 weeks.

"They knew from the beginning that I had wanted to breastfeed, but with a lot of my complications, my milk hadn't come in yet," Boe said. "So they started her on donor milk kind of from the beginning."

Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls receives donated milk from the Mother's Milk Bank of Iowa. Several hospitals in the region donate milk there from patients, including Avera St. Mary's in Pierre.

"It gives mothers an opportunity to donate their milk if they have a surplus of milk at home, instead of throwing it away," Paige Sperry said, who is a registered nurse and unit supervisor at the Women's Center in Pierre.

After moms give their unused milk in Pierre, it goes to the Milk Bank in Iowa to get tested. It then gets donated to hospitals with Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU's).

"Decades of research have shown us that breast milk is the optimal nutrition for babies. There are many different benefits. Some of them include like immune system boosters, infection fighting factors," Sperry said.

So the donated breast milk helps babies fight medical conditions if their mom cannot provide it.

"I had always thought that I wouldn't have any issues providing that, but with the way things went, that just wasn't the case," Boe said. "You're not stressing about pumping every hour on the dot trying to keep it up. Like, you still are able to take the time that you need to get some sleep and rest and take care of your child too."

And this is all while Jennie said her daughter got the best nutrition possible.

If a mom is interested in donating her breast milk at Avera St. Mary's in Pierre, she has to go through a brief screening process. After she passes that, she will call the lab to set up a time to drop off the milk there. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a donor, call the Mother's Milk Bank of Iowa at 877-891-5347. You can find more information here.