Jun 8, 2017

Interview Transcript

Dr. Jones: Breast milk is best for newborn babies. But what happens for moms who can't breastfeed or something has happened? The baby's very little. What do we do to provide breast milk for those babies? This is Dr. Kirtly Jones from Obstetrics and Gynecology at The University of Utah Health and this is The Scope.

Announcer: Covering all aspects of women's health. This is "The Seven Domains of Women's Health" with Dr. Kirtly Jones on The Scope.

Dr. Jones: There's a long-standing tradition of women helping other women with breast milk throughout different cultures and around the world. We've called that "wet nursing." The process of helping another woman, who might be ill, unable to nurse, by breastfeeding their baby. But now here in Utah and around the country, we have breast milk donors and a breast milk bank that's been carefully processing milk so that we can give milk, breast milk, to babies who can't be either nursed or doesn't have a mom who's able to nurse.

With us today in the studio is Melanie Walcott. And Melanie is a nurse who is the University of Utah's Milk Bank Coordinator. And she's going to talk to us a little bit about what we can do here in Utah, who are going to be our donors, who are going to be our recipients, and what can you do if you choose to be a donor. Thanks for joining us, Melanie.

Melanie: Hi, Dr. Jones, thanks for having me.

Dr. Jones: Yeah, it's great to be here. Well, tell me a little bit about the milk bank that's here in Utah. It's the Mountain West Mother's Milk Bank?

Melanie: Yes. It was established in 2014 by a group of providers in our own Newborn ICU here at the University of Utah. They saw that there was a need for breast milk for the babies in the Newborn ICU. And so they decided to work on opening a milk bank right here in Utah where we can, hopefully in the future, process and pasteurize milk to give to those babies.

Dr. Jones: So right now we actually have a donation site, right?

Melanie: In the University system, we do, yes.

Dr. Jones: Where is that?

Melanie: It's at the Westridge Clinic.

Dr. Jones: And we're going to open another site, aren't we?

Melanie. We are. Actually on May 8th at the South Jordan Health Center.

Dr. Jones: Happy Mother's Day.

Melanie: Exactly.

Dr. Jones: So we'll have a little celebration at the South Jordan Clinic that will be great.

Melanie: We will.

Dr. Jones: So how does a mom . . . a mom wants to do this, she might best be screened. So there is a number to call because the milk that we collect doesn't stay here right away. It goes to Denver to be maybe analyzed and pasteurized. So all the milk that we drink, whether we get the cow's milk should be pasteurized so bacteria and things aren't active. But how would a woman who is interested in doing this find out whether she could do this?

Melanie: She would need to follow a screening process. If they go to our website here at uofuhealth.org/mothersmilk, it has all the information about donor eligibility. Basically, you need to be a woman who's healthy, be a non-smoker, and there's limitations on medications and herbs that you can be taking.

Dr. Jones: Okay. So you have a baby at home and you're breastfeeding but you notice that you always have a little left. Many women who have newborns bank their own breast milk for a time when they might be out shopping or a babysitter might come so their baby can have breast milk if they aren't there. So a woman would actually pump at home and freeze it?

Melanie: Exactly.

Dr. Jones: And then they bring it in frozen?

Melanie: Yes.

Dr. Jones: To our collection centers.

Melanie: Yes.

Dr. Jones: Our collection centers would probably do some screening there and then the breast milk gets frozen so it stays frozen. And it goes to Denver. And then it comes back to us, here in Salt Lake.

Melanie: Yes, exactly.

Dr. Jones: Now who might be the appropriate recipients? Who are the babies that need?

Melanie: Eight-five percent of the milk that's processed through our site goes to babies in the Newborn ICU. So usually premature babies or babies that have other health conditions. Could be to babies of moms who aren't able to provide milk. There's lots of conditions.

Dr. Jones: Right. So there might be moms who are taking medications that are bad for babies but they must take it. Or I think of some unfortunate patients who had a cancer diagnosed during their pregnancy and they had to have chemotherapy immediately afterwards. And there are woman who may have had the BRCA gene and they had their breast tissue removed young but still wanted to have babies. All those are, and more, conditions where moms might not be able to nurse. Or the moms just may be so sick they can't nurse.

Melanie: Yes.

Dr. Jones: So how does a mom actually sign up to have her baby be a recipient of breast milk?

Melanie: You would need a prescription from your provider, your medical provider. And then you can contact our milk bank and we can go through the steps to get the milk to you. You'd have to pay for it. I'm not sure insurance would cover it.

Dr. Jones: Okay.

Melanie: Depending on the situation.

Dr. Jones: Well let's say a woman doesn't either want to pay for it or she wants to go online because I've heard you can go online and get breast milk and buy breast milk online. You can get everything online. How about that?

Melanie: The problem with that is you can't guarantee what's in it. It could have a little extra cow's milk in it. The woman could have been taking medications that might not be great for your baby. And the number one thing is you can't guarantee that it's pasteurized.

Dr. Jones: Right. So here we have a service and we have women who might choose to serve. So when I think of the thousands of years of the culture of being a wet nurse or being able to help out a sister or a friend's baby if the mom was sick and nurse the baby, but now we have a way of doing it for even very preemie babies that really can't latch on. They're too little to latch on.

So we can do it for preemie babies. We can do it for moms who might have conditions where they can't nurse. They will have a bank. We have a bank right now. We're hoping to open a center where we do our own processing so it doesn't have to get shipped to Denver.

Melanie: Yeah. The goal is to have that by the end of the summer.

Dr. Jones: Well that would be great. It might even save a little money in Delta Dash costs.

Melanie: Hopefully, yes. That would be great.

Dr. Jones: So I understand the University has a collection site and this Mountain West Mother's Bank has been in business for a couple years. But do you have a lot of donors? Have you collected enough? How's the collection process going?

Melanie: Yes. At our Westridge site, actually last year, we donated, or we had 11,265 ounces of milk donated.

Dr. Jones: So let's see, 11,265 ounces? That adds up to 88 gallons. And remember the babies can't drink all that much. So just one ounce of milk can feed a preemie for an entire day. A little tiny preemie. So that's a lot of preemies that we could help. So once again this is a wonderful service. We're opening a new collection site and one just before Mother's Day at the South Jordan Clinic here at the University of Utah.

If you're interested in participating or wanting to know more, uofuhealth.org/mothersmilk, is the website where you can find out more. And if you're willing to be a donor, if you have some extra milk, what a great gift. A private gift really because the moms don't always know who the donors came from but it's a very private gift for a child who may have no other resources for this. What a wonderful thing. Thank you for joining us on The Scope.

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