© 2024
Local NPR for the Cape, Coast & Islands 90.1 91.1 94.3
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

It's getting easier for nursing moms on Cape Cod to donate surplus breast milk

Twins Maddie and Henry received donor milk through Mothers' Milk Bank Northeast.
Mothers' Milk Bank Northeast
Twins Maddie and Henry received donor milk through Mothers' Milk Bank Northeast.

Nursing mothers on Cape Cod are donating surplus breast milk at Cape Cod Hospital as part of a new program.

Last week, the hospital became a dropoff point for Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, which supplies more than 100 hospitals in New England and the Mid-Atlantic. Donors go through a brief screening to participate in the program.

Most of the milk will feed sick and pre-term infants, especially those in neonatal intensive care units, said Kylia Garver, the milk bank’s director of hospital relations and community education.

“Often, in the NICU, when a baby has been born so prematurely, Mom's milk isn't in yet,” she said. “And so there may be a period of time where some supplementation with donor milk can make sure that that infant has an exclusive human-milk diet.”

For pre-term babies, such a diet reduces the incidence of life-threatening necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC, by 80 percent.

“NEC is the … first most common cause of mortality in the NICU after two weeks of age,” she said. “So preventing NEC is incredibly important.”

Donated milk is frozen and shipped to the bank in Newton to be tested and pasteurized.

Before the hospital got involved, mothers who wanted to donate needed to arrange a FedEx pickup — albeit with paid postage — at their homes.

Cape Cod Hospital does not have an intensive care unit for babies, but it hopes to become a distribution point for milk that is available to babies outside the NICU, said Jennifer Lacasse, director of women’s and children’s services at the hospital.

“Facilities that want to use donated milk … have to have an agreement and obtain milk from the milk bank,” she said. “So in the future, it will be our goal to be able to use donated milk as well.”

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.