It's something that can make a difference between life and death for premature babies -- and now, a Nashville non-profit group wants to make sure local moms have access to it.
Breast milk banks, which are similar to blood banks, currently exist in several states across the country, but not in Tennessee. The Mothers’ Milk Bank of Tennessee is working to bring the first location to Nashville.
Currently, the group oversees donation depots, which are sites where donated breast milk can be dropped off. At Nashville General Hospital, around 50 donors have contributed 38,000 ounces of milk since 2016.
Each donor must complete an application, be screened and approved, and complete necessary lab work. Each donation is frozen and then shipped to an existing milk bank in Austin, Texas where it is pasteurized. The process kills viruses and preserves the nutrients in the milk. It is then sold to hospitals.
Mother’s Milk Bank of Tennessee wants to acquire the necessary equipment so the pasteurization process can be completed in Nashville, and the donated milk can help local moms with high risk newborns.
“The focus is mainly on babies that are very tiny, and less than 3.5 pounds,” said Dr. Susan Campbell, the co-founder of Mothers’ Milk Bank of Tennessee. “Imagine what we could do in Tennessee if we had our own milk bank, and send the milk to Vanderbilt, Centennial and Saint Thomas Midtown.”
Tracey McMahon, a registered nurse and lactation consultant, has helped coordinate donations at Nashville General Hospital. She said moms drop off the frozen milk, and she moves it to the freezer. The entire process just takes a few minutes, and each donation can make a big difference for moms who aren’t able to produce their own milk.
“Formula companies have come a long way and are making a better product, but it’s not the same as the real thing,” said McMahon. “It’s huge for the new moms, and for the moms who donate. They feel good knowing they are helping a baby thrive.”
Mothers’ Milk Bank of Tennessee also oversees donation depots in Memphis and Pulaski. The group hopes to add additional sites in Columbia and Hendersonville.
The goal is to have the Milk Bank up and running in about a year. Now the group is focusing on fundraising to get the necessary money to buy equipment for the pasteurizing process.
For more information on donating milk, or money visit: http://www.milkbanktn.org/index.html