Emily DeAno, of The Nurturing Nook breast-feeding center in Hinsdale, stands by the freezer where donated breast milk from local mothers is stored. (Kimberly Fornek, Pioneer Press)

Nursing mothers can donate their extra milk in Hinsdale to help babies whose own mothers are not as fortunate.

The Nurturing Nook breast-feeding center next to Adventist Hinsdale Hospital is a depot for the Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes.

The nonprofit accepts frozen milk from preapproved donors.

“I just shipped 2,000 ounces last week, and I’ve got another 1,000 ounces ready,” Emily DeAno, the center’s community partnership specialist, said July 7.

There are various reasons a woman donates her breast milk. One of the most common is that the mother has an overabundance of milk, said Summer Kelly, executive director of the Mothers’ Milk Bank. The mother may produce a lot of milk and have been freezing it for future use. She decides to donate her excess to help other babies, Kelly said. Milk can be used up to six months after it was pumped, if it was kept frozen, Kelly said.

Nicole Pietras looked into how to donate milk when she had no more room in her freezer to store the milk she was pumping for her daughter, now 7 months old. Pietras, who lives in Bolingbrook, donated 800 ounces to the Nurturing Nook in Hinsdale.

“That’s not even half of what I have in my freezer,” Pietras said.

“I am very regimented,” Pietras said.

About a month and a half before her maternity leave ended and she went back to work, she started pumping so that the babysitter would have enough milk for the baby. She continues to pump several times a day.

Pietras, who has four children, says she wishes she knew about milk banks years ago.

“I have friends who are through having babies,” Pietras said. “We wish we would have known about this. It would have been nice (to donate milk) to help someone else out.”

Another reason women donate is because they find out their baby is allergic to milk after they have pumped a supply.

Some mothers whose babies die when they are weeks or months old also want to donate their milk in the baby’s honor.

“That’s a very special donation,” Kelly said. “It is really hard for them to throw the milk away.”

A plaque bearing the baby’s name and birth date becomes part of the Giving Tree Memorial in The Milk Bank in Indianapolis. The nonprofit Milk Bank and the Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes are both members of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

Donated mother’s milk feeds babies in hospitals’ neonatal intensive care units.

“Some (premature) babies are so tiny, they only weigh 1 or 2 pounds,” Kelly said. “Their stomachs are so fragile, they cannot tolerate formula or artificial milk.”

Kelly said they always use a mother’s milk first. But if there is a delay in the mother’s milk production, or she has a low milk supply or is unable to produce, hospitals use donor milk to feed the infants, she said.

Sometimes mothers cannot breast-feed their own babies because they are undergoing chemotherapy or taking medications that could harm the baby, Kelly said.

Mothers’ Milk Bank also collects milk from places in Oak Park, Park Ridge, Northbrook, Elgin and DeKalb, and 10 locations in Wisconsin. All the milk is sent to The Milk Bank in Indianapolis, where it is blended, pasteurized, tested and screened, Kelly said.

Blending the milk ensures a good mix of nutrients in the milk that is shipped out and reduces the risks that could occur if a baby received milk from a single donor, Kelly said.

“In 2014, we sent over 150,000 ounces” to the Indianapolis milk bank, she said.

The Milk Bank sells milk to hospitals, which then bill the mother’s insurance company. The revenue is used to pay for storage, shipping, testing and administration of the milk bank network. Income beyond that is used to provide milk to families whose insurance does not cover donated breast milk, for education programs and bereavement support, Kelly said.

To contact the Milk Bank at The Nurturing Nook breast-feeding center, at 121 Elm St. in Hinsdale, call 630-856-6455.

For more information about Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes, call 847-444-9256 or go to milkbankwgl.org.

Twitter @kfdoings

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