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St. Cloud Hospital opens milk depot for vulnerable infants

Pre-screened donors can donate their milk to help mothers who are not able to produce milk on their own.
Credit: KARE 11

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — When Lauren Line donated around 1,000 ounces of breast milk, the Sartell nurse practitioner drove 45 minutes to Cambridge, the nearest site accepting donations.

For other breastfeeding mothers in central Minnesota, donating excess breast milk may have involved driving to the Twin Cities or finding dry ice to ship their milk.

Now, though, making such donations is much more convenient.

Since March 27, people have been able to drop off donated milk at St. Cloud Hospital's milk depot. The milk is intended for medically vulnerable infants in need, the Saint Cloud Times reported.

"If we can have this for (infants), it's really saved their life and helped them stay healthier," said Jeanne Friebe, a nurse and lactation consultant at the birthing center and depot coordinator.

The St. Cloud depot collects milk from pre-screened donors by appointment. The donations are collected and processed by the Minnesota Milk Bank for Babies, which became accredited last month.

The milk bank pasteurizes the milk, tests it for bacteria and freezes it until it can be used to help mothers who are not able to produce milk on their own.

Breast milk has many benefits for premature infants, according to Line, who has worked in neonatal intensive care units for about 10 years. Benefits include being easier to digest and helping their stomach and immune systems, she said.

RELATED: Study: ‘Breakthrough' infant formula protects immune system like breast milk

Line has known people who have struggled to produce milk, but she also has known many moms who have an excess of breast milk. There has not been a local opportunity for donation, however.

"Having seen friends personally go through that," Line said, "any chance I can...to help out, that has been my drive."

The application process to be a depot was extensive, according to Line, but did not take as long as she expected.

"It is definitely worth the time and effort," Line said.

To donate, applicants must be screened by a milk bank. The Minnesota Milk Bank for Babies has been around as a concept for about six years, according to Danielle Downs Spradlin, donor and depot coordinator.

The organization received all accreditation in March and began processing milk the week of March 25.

The St. Cloud depot is a "major milestone," Downs Spradlin said. "This really is a community resource."

For people who have been screened and accepted, they can schedule an appointment with Friebe to drop off donated milk in St. Cloud

Friebe has an amazing system, Downs Spradlin said, and donors are helping the community.

"(Donors) really put in a lot of effort," Downs Spradlin said. "It's a huge time commitment to pump your milk for someone else's baby."

Families who are interested in becoming screened donors can call Downs Spradlin at the milk bank to see if they would be a good fit.

The bank looks for mothers who do not smoke and do not have blood-borne diseases. They also ask potential donors health and lifestyle questions.

Donors also go through a blood screening and ask for doctors' approval on donating. The bank wants "to prioritize milk to mom's own baby first," Downs Spradlin said.

"Our donors are really wonderful," Downs Spradlin said. "What a phenomenal thing."

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