Jonah's Milk: Why Don't Our Hospitals Use Donor Milk?

"We need more hospitals using the donated milk and we need more moms to donate."

Fran Feehan is the director of Mothers' Milk Bank, in Columbus, Ohio. "If you have a baby that's born premature, some of their other organs, their digestive system aren't fully developed yet. So they're going to have a harder time digesting something that's as challenging as formula. But babies were designed to digest donor milk, breast milk."

This milk bank has success stories posted all over its walls with stories of survival.

"So all of this breast milk in here is going to the tiniest and sickest of babies, facing life or death. But the vast majority of hospitals in West Virginia have a policy that doesn't accept donated breast milk. We're asking why."

"Do you use donor breast milk here at Mon General?" I asked Gail Rock, a certified nurse midwife. "We do not use donor breast milk," she said. "One because of cost prohibitiveness. Two we don't really have a NICU, most of our babies are term."

The milk is $4.25 an ounce and, for example, a 28-week old baby would need six ounces a day. The amount would increase weekly, so by 35 weeks, it would be up to 13 ounces a day, for a grand total of $2,261.

So we asked Ruby Memorial Hospital, where many babies with life-threatening illnesses and emergencies do spend crucial time in the NICU.

Here's the statement we received from Cheryl Jones, R. N., director of WVU Children's Hospital:

"At WVU Children's Hospital, our mission is to provide highest quality of care to our patients. While we agree that breast milk is best, it is not feasible for us to receive human milk at this time. As always, we continuously strive to meet best practices to care for our patients and will continue to evaluate this program."

Although both hospitals agree breast milk is the healthiest way to feed a newborn, they both use formula, if a mother is not able to produce milk.

It's something Mon General said it's working to change as it "weans out" formula.

"In order for the hospital to be totally "baby friendly", you need to offer it, you need to have no formula available, and that's really our biggest stepping stone," Rock said.

This process may take another year. As far as receiving donations, the Milk Bank of Ohio is our closest milk bank; and hospitals from all over the country can sign up, at $4.25 an ounce.

A high price for some, but Feehan said for the babies who need it most, it's invaluable.

The milk bank is also in desperate need of donations. To find out how you can donate, or to become a recipient of the breast milk donations, information is posted below.

Main Phone 614-566-0630

Fax: 614-544-0812

Eastside Health Center

4850 East Main St.

Columbus OH 43213

Mailing Address:

PO Box 310

Ohio Health Mothers' Milk Bank

Columbus OH 43216

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