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The Greater Ozarks Regional Mother’s Milk Depot is celebrating its grand opening today. It’s the first human milk collection site affiliated with the Heart of America Mother’s Milk Bank at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, one of 13 milk banks in North America.
The Milk Depot is a joint effort of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department and the Greater Ozarks Regional Breastfeeding Coalition.
Cheryl Blevins, community health nurse at the Health Department, says the purpose of the Milk Depot is to facilitate milk collection in the Ozarks.
Donated milk is sent to the Milk Bank in Kansas City for processing.
According to Blevins, having a milk collection site in Springfield will make it easier for local hospitals to obtain human milk for their smallest patients…
"Because we're collecting milk locally, having a collection site in your community bumps your hospitals up to priority distribution status with the milk bank. That means, unless Kansas City was in a dire situation, they're always going to be able to meet our hospitals' needs, so our babies are going to have access to that milk," she said.
Milk is obtained from the Heart of America Mother’s Milk Bank with a physician’s prescription. Blevins says premature or sick babies are the milk banks’ number one priority…
"We know the use of human milk feedings in NICU's saves lives. It reduces neonatal mortality by 50 percent, reduces the incidents of life threatening intestinal complications by 60 percent," she said.
The Greater Ozarks Regional Mother’s Milk Depot has had one donor so far. Liz Blackburn of Strafford pumped milk for her now five-and-a-half-month-old son who was born about three months early. She had so much extra that she decided to donate it. The Milk Depot in Springfield opened just in time to allow her to do so…
"So far I've donated, I think they said it was 1,040 ounces," she said.
She donated another 150 ounces today. Blackburn says she hopes her milk helps babies who, like her son, are born prematurely or are struggling with health issues…
"The NICU I think is just such an overwhelming experience for any parent, and we were very very blessed with our run through the NICU for as early as he was that we don't have more issues, but I think anything you can do to help baby get through that as healthy, and I know that breast milk is the best thing for them," she said.
The Greater Ozarks Regional Mother’s Milk Depot is located at the Springfield-Greene County Health Department’s main WIC location at 440 E. Tampa. Moms who wish to donate milk must undergo a health screening and receive approval to donate.
Even though Blackburn has been the only donor so far, another mom is waiting to drop off milk as soon as Blackburn’s milk is shipped to Kansas City, and a few others are beginning the donor screening process.
Cheryl Blevins hopes others will step up and want to help…
"Those moms that have an abundance of milk and wish to donate can literally give the gift of life because when you spend the time and miss the sleep to pump milk for another woman's baby, you're giving them the gift that lasts a lifetime," she said.
Women interested in starting the milk donor screening process can contact the Heart of America Mother’s Milk Bank at 816-932-4888.
For more information about the Milk Depot or about donating, 851-1555 or health.springfieldmo.gov.
For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.