DAVID ZALAZNIK/JOURNAL STAR Peoria City/County Health Department Child and Family Health coordinator Michelle Compton, left, and Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Lisha Smith pose for a photograph Thursday with a storage freezer bearing packages of frozen breast milk.
PEORIA — Got extra mother’s milk? Peoria County now has a place where you can donate it to help sick babies.
The Peoria City/County Health Department has become an official Milk Depot for the not-for-profit Mother’s Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes. Women with excess milk are encouraged to go through the screening process so they can donate.
“It’s about a two-week process,” said Michelle Compton, child and family coordinator for the PCCHD. “Call Western Great Lakes at (847) 262-5134 and ask for Susan. After the initial screening process they will send you an application.”
The screening process includes a blood test, but there is no cost for donors, Compton said. It’s a great opportunity for women with excess milk in the freezer. Frozen milk lasts months and could still be usable after the two-week screening process.
“Any mom can donate. You don’t have to be on WIC (the Women, Infants and Children program) or a resident of Peoria County,” Compton said. “For any mom that has extra breast milk and doesn’t want to throw it away, this is a way that she can put it to good use.”
Milk brought to the PCCHD will be shipped to the milk bank in Elk Grove Village, where it will be tested and pasteurized. Then it likely will come back to central Illinois.
“Most of the milk goes to infants currently in the NICU — premature babies or babies with medical conditions,” Compton said. “If a baby has a medical condition where they can’t tolerate formula, they would be eligible for it as well.”
The best form of sustenance for all babies, breast milk is particularly important for premature babies. Donor milk is prescribed when the baby’s mother can’t provide enough of her own breast milk. Preterm babies fed anything other than human milk are at greater risk for health problems like necrotizing enterocolitis, a digestive tract inflammation that affects about 20 percent of very low birth weight infants.
A new program for PCCHD, the Milk Depot is being managed by the WIC nutrition program staff.
“I think our staff is really excited about it. It ties in very nicely with our mission,” Compton said. “We’ve been trying to get it here for a year. We had an employee’s wife who had a bunch of extra milk she wanted to donate, and we were trying to connect her with a safe way to do that. We started to think about the fact that we should have this service here.”
A few women already have found out about the program.
“A donor came in a couple weeks ago. She drove an hour to get here, and she was glad she didn’t have to drive up to Chicago anymore,” Compton said. “She was so happy to donate the milk — you could see it on her face. She knew this was gonna help an infant that really needs it.”