The Rock Island County Health Department has opened the first Human Milk Depot for collecting breast milk donations in the Illinois Quad-Cities.

Janet Hill, chief operating officer, said the health department has partnered with Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes to open the depot. Milk donated in the Quad-Cities will be distributed to hospitals throughout the region, to feed premature and sick babies, she said.

“Most hospitals that have neonatal intensive care units use donor milk, if babies don’t have access to mom’s milk, or if breast feeding is contraindicated because of medication use,” Mothers’ Milk Bank Executive Director Summer Kelly said. “These babies usually weigh less than four pounds. They’re really small babies and have underdeveloped, fragile (gastrointestinal) systems. So they’re too fragile to tolerate formula.”

When a mother’s milk is unavailable because of sickness, medication use or other complications, Kelly argued donated breast milk is vital to a premature baby’s health. In addition to supporting digestive health, she said human milk helps prevent disease.
The Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa has been accepting donations in the Iowa Quad-Cities for years, but the Rock Island County depot will be the first center on the Illinois side, Hill said. The Rock Island County Health Department’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program will accept donations at the Moline Community Health Care clinic.

“The closest milk depots we have are in Peoria, Macomb and Rockford, so we don’t have anything really close to Moline or Rock Island,” Kelly said. “There was definitely a need in the Quad-Cities area. We want to make it more convenient for mothers to donate milk.”

Since opening three years ago, Kelly said the Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes has opened 35 human milk depots throughout Illinois and Wisconsin. More than 970 women have donated, allowing the non-profit to distribute around 370,000 ounces of milk so far.

Kelly said once the Mothers’ Milk Bank receives a donation, it tests the milk, pasteurizes it, tests it again, then sends it out to hospitals. Around 80 percent of the donated milk is sent to 38 hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin, while the other 20 percent is donated to outpatients.

Women interested in donating milk must complete a health screening and blood test, according to Hill.

Anyone interested in donating may call 563-327-2078 or 309-558-2881.

The Rock Island County Health Department’s WIC program also offers information about overcoming breastfeeding barriers, nutrition advice, check-in appointments between doctor visits, plus other assistance, for parents of children up to age 5, Hill said.

The groups will cut a ribbon on the new Human Milk Depot in Moline on Oct. 22, she said.

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