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Essential health information from local experts

Saving Lives Through Breast Milk Donation

Saving Lives Through Breast Milk Donation

How to donate—and why.

Packed with healthy fats, essential nutrients and protective antibodies, breast milk is the perfect food for newborns and babies, giving them everything they need to grow up healthy and strong.

But what if the breast milk isn’t available?

Better Than Formula
When it comes to health and nutrition, there’s just no replacing the natural benefits of breast milk over formula. Not only are nutrients, such as fats and proteins, better absorbed, but breast milk also supplies important antibodies to protect babies against illness.

“A mother’s own breast milk is always the best food choice for her newborn,” says Judy Cavallaro, Director – Women’s and Operative Services at SMH-Venice. “Breast milk donated by thoroughly screened donors is the next best option.”

So in those situations where the mother’s breast milk is not available, such as when a baby is born preterm and the mother is not producing enough milk yet, donor milk from local depots can make all the difference.

Save Milk, Save Lives
In 2015, Sarasota Memorial opened its first Milk Depot, located on the Sarasota Campus and in partnership with Mother’s Milk Bank of Florida, to ensure our littlest patients have every advantage. In 2022, the program expanded with the opening of the second Sarasota Memorial Milk Depot, this one on the Venice Campus. Through these depots, local mothers who pass a mandatory health screening have been able to donate their breast milk to help struggling newborns across the state. Donated breastmilk is bottled, labeled and stored in a freezer for use later.

This has been especially important for underweight or premature babies, who may spend days or months in the hospital’s intensive care nursery, where donated breast milk helps them build their immune systems. And every three ounces of breast milk can be nine meals or more for these little ones.

“Donating breast milk is like donating blood—it saves lives,” says Mary O’Connor, manager of Community Health Outreach and Childbirth Education at Sarasota Memorial.

All donations are analyzed for protein and calorie content, then pasteurized to eliminate any viruses and bacteria. After one final test for contaminants, the milk is put into a deep freeze and made ready for distribution.

To date, local mothers have already donated more than 88,500 ounces of breast milk since that first depot opened, including 10,576 ounces in 2023 alone.

How Do I Donate?
The first step to becoming an approved donor is to contact Mother’s Milk Bank of Florida at (407) 248-5050.

  • A not-for-profit organization, Mother’s Milk Bank will lead you through the screening process free of charge. They will also tell you how best to store and preserve your breast milk for donation.

Once approved, donation is simply a matter of bringing the frozen milk to whichever SMH Milk Depot is most convenient for you.

  • No appointment is needed at either the Sarasota or Venice campuses. Simply pull into the main entrance at either hospital and inform Valet Services that you are dropping off milk. They will instruct you where to park.
  • Once parked, call HealthConnection and a team member will meet you at your car to pick up your donation. The number is (941) 917-7011 for SMH-Sarasota and (941) 261-7011 for SMH-Venice.

Learn More
To read more about the importance of breast milk donation, how donations are processed, and how to get started, visit the Mother’s Milk Bank of Florida website here.

Posted: May 28, 2024,
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