SARASOTA (May 4, 2022) – Sarasota Memorial has opened a second Milk Depot at the new SMH-Venice Campus for local moms to donate their breast milk to struggling premature babies.
The first donor at SMH-Venice has a personal tie to the cause, having given birth to a preemie of her own at the end of 2021. Brittany Brighenti has donated more than 800 ounces of breast milk since her son Carter’s birth on December 23 when she was only 31 weeks pregnant. Prior to the opening of the milk depot in south county, she was driving approximately 45 minutes to SMH-Sarasota. She is thrilled to have the new drop-off location so close to home.
“Now that the Venice Campus is open, it’s as easy as can be. You just start the donor process with some paperwork and screening ahead of time, and I drove up to drop-off without even having to go inside of the hospital,” Brighenti says.
Sarasota Memorial established its first Milk Depot at the Sarasota Campus in 2015 to enhance maternity care and work toward national Baby Friendly USA © designation, which was achieved in 2018. So far in 2022, local women have donated more than 6,000 ounces of breastmilk through Sarasota Memorial, bringing the total donated since the SMH Milk Depot's inception to more than 62,157 ounces.
SMH’s Milk Depots were established in association with the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Florida, which screens mothers using a voluntary process similar to blood donations, and is the only one of its kind in the state. The not-for-profit Milk Bank analyzes the milk of approved donors for calorie and protein content and then pasteurizes it to kill any viruses or bacteria. It then tests the milk to ensure it’s free of contaminates before deep freezing and distributing it to hospitalized babies who are in need.
“A mother’s own breast milk is always the best food choice for her newborn, but when a mother’s milk isn’t available, breast milk donated by thoroughly screened donors is the next best option for critically ill newborns or premature babies struggling to recover in hospitals across the nation,” said Judy Cavallaro, Director for Women’s and Perioperative Services at SMH-Venice.
Typically, only babies weighing less than 3 pounds will meet the criteria for donated breast milk. They may need that milk for most of their stay in a hospital’s intensive care nursery, which could be months, or just a few days until their mothers begin producing their own milk. Every 3 ounces can make up to nine meals or more for a premature baby.
Mary O’Connor, Manager of Childbirth Education & Lactation Services at Sarasota Memorial, said breast milk is not only easier to digest for premature babies, it also builds their immune system, lowers their risk of life-threatening infections and improves their developmental outcomes. “Donating breast milk is like donating blood – it saves lives,” she said.
There is no cost or compensation to moms to donate their milk. Mothers’ Milk Bank sells the milk to hospitals to cover distribution and basic costs. Local moms interested in donating their breast milk can start the screening process by calling the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Florida at (407) 248-5050 or visiting milkbankofflorida.org.
About Sarasota Memorial Health Care System
Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is a regional referral center offering Southwest Florida’s greatest breadth and depth of care, with more than 1 million patient visits each year across its 2 hospital campuses, free-standing ER, and network of outpatient care centers. Its flagship 895-bed Sarasota hospital has been consistently recognized as one of the nation’s best, with superior patient outcomes and comprehensive network of outpatient. The public health system opened its second acute-care hospital, SMH-Venice, in November 2021, with 110 beds and full range of specialties to serve the growing south Sarasota County region.