Breast feeding is one of the healthiest choices a new mom can make for their new baby. But what if the new mom is not able to produce enough milk? What if there are considerations that cause a mother’s milk to be unhealthy for their child. Is formula the only option for them? Thankfully, the Mother’s Milk Depot at Fitzgibbon Hospital provides an outlet for women who produce too much milk for their young ones to donate their milk for babies who need it. Other women who have experienced the pain of miscarriage find an opportunity to do something positive by donating the milk they produce to help as well. Fitzgibbon Hospital recently recognized two such mothers who have been donating their breast milk so babies can receive the important nourishment, even if their mothers are unable to breast feed or have lactation problems.
“I knew I had donated a lot of breast milk over the course of six years with my four kids, but I didn’t know it was six gallons worth,” said Beth Naugle, a Smithton, Mo., mother of four who donates because it allows her to make a difference for many moms in need. “I am a stay-at-home mom, and donating the breast milk that is over and above what my own children need is an important way that I feel like I can help people.”
Naugle said she thought it seemed like a waste six years ago when her body could produce far more milk than her child could consume. She looked up ways to donate that milk and found Fitzgibbon Hospital, which started the Mother’s Milk Depot as part of changes they made to become a Baby Friendly-designated Hospital.
The Baby Friendly Initiative is a program of the World Health Organization to encourage and support breast feeding mothers as a means to impact global health. Fitzgibbon was the second Baby Friendly hospital in the state of Missouri and has maintained the designation through routine site surveys and policy updates as required by the program. As part of the Baby Friendly Designation, Fitzgibbon Hospital saw a jump in breast feeding moms from 40% to over 90%. The result is better health and immunities in the children benefitting from the donated milk.
For Cheyenn Griffitt, her donations of breast milk started just six months ago with the birth of her own child. Griffitt is an LPN at Fitzgibbon Hospital who understands the important health benefits of breast feeding.
“I just really wanted to breast feed my own baby, but I was unable to because he wouldn’t latch on. So I began pumping and quickly found that I would pump far more milk than what he could drink. So I started donating the excess to help other moms,” said Griffitt. “It took four months of pumping before my son would finally latch on.”
When asked about what she would say to a mom who wonders if receiving donated breast milk through the Mother’s Milk Program at Fitzgibbon Hospital would be right for her, Griffitt was quick and direct with her answer.
“I initially wondered if it wasn’t a little strange to receive breast milk from someone else, but then I inquired and saw the testing that is done to make sure that the breast milk is healthy and viable, and it put my mind at ease,” said Griffitt.
“You call Fitzgibbon Hospital, and they put you in touch with the Mother’s Milk Bank in Denver, Colorado, who sends a blood test kit which you take to the lab. They analyze your blood for anything that would be a problem for the donation. Then they provide you with bags that you can use to collect your donation. It is very easy to do,” said Griffitt.
Naugle said that she receives the donation bags and she places them in the freezer after collection. When she needs space in her freezer, she brings the donation to the Women’s Center at Fitzgibbon Hospital in a cooler. The donations can keep for 18 months after frozen.
The Mother’s Milk Depot is an ongoing legacy that began at Fitzgibbon Hospital after two area women had challenging circumstances in their lives. One mother’s baby was born with a significant cleft palate which caused her to be unable to breastfeed. While pumping, she learned that she produced much more milk than her baby could consume. Around the same time, another mom experienced a tragic loss of her baby as she neared her due date. Her body prepared for the birth by lactating, although there was no baby present to consume it.
“Somehow in the midst of her pain and grief, this momma picked up the phone and called us. She said, ‘My baby died, and now I have all this milk and no one to feed it to,” said Natalie Lavelock, Lactation Consultant at Fitzgibbon Hospital. “She said, ‘If my baby can’t have my milk, isn’t there a baby somewhere who could use it?’”
Out of this grief and pain, the Mother’s Milk Depot at Fitzgibbon Hospital was born. For more information, visit www.fitzgibbon.org and search for Mother’s Milk Depot or call the Women’s Center at Fitzgibbon Hospital, 660-886-7431.