SANDUSKY, Ohio — Two new drop-off freezer sites for donated breast milk opened Tuesday as many continue to deal with challenges trying to find what they need to feed their loved ones.
Both Lorain County Public Health and the Erie County Health Department/Erie County WIC unveiled on-site freezers for those participating through Columbus-based OhioHealth Mothers’ Milk Bank.
“We always need donors and this need is increasing and we need to feed babies,” Chris Smith, outreach and operations coordinator at OhioHealth Mothers’ Milk Bank, said.
Smith explained after pre-screened donors drop off their breast milk, the milk is transferred to Columbus where it’s pasteurized and distributed, primarily to hospitals and neonatal intensive care units where it’s given to infants, especially those born prematurely, critically ill infants, or those with heart defects or intestinal defects.
Danielle McArthur Moore works as a WIC breastfeeding peer at Lorain County Public Health and vividly remembers what it was like trying to feed her son when he was first born last year.
“You feel like it's a matter of life or death,” she explained. “Your child needs to eat.”
McArthur Moore said if it wasn’t for the breast milk given to her while her son was in the NICU last August, she likely would’ve gone to formula.
“Which wasn’t my ideal plan; I wanted to breastfeed exclusively,” she added.
To give you a better idea of the demand, OhioHealth said just one ounce of milk can feed a premature infant for three days. Over the past year, Smith said they distributed more than 440,000 ounces of milk, amounting to a 23% increase from the previous fiscal year.
While efforts are underway to make donating milk easier, the FDA recently announced plans are underway to possibly allow long-term pathways for overseas formula to be allowed into the United States.
“To become an approved donor, it’s three steps,” Smith explained. “There’s a phone interview, there’s a written health history questionnaire that needs to be completed including forms for mom’s doctor and baby’s doctor that needs to be signed off on, and then there’s some blood work we do that we cover the cost of.”
Thanks to a mere 12-minute drive, Amanda Yingling became the first donor in Erie County to use the drop-off freezer.
“A lot of work has gone into pumping all this breast milk,” Yingling said. “I have an abundance. I feed my baby and I've been able to freeze a lot. Especially with the formula shortage, I'm hoping it can go to other babies.”
In total, OhioHealth said there are 18 milk drop locations across the state, including these two new locations plus one in Beachwood. Plans are underway for one on Cleveland's west side in the near future as well.