by Mike Lee
Overwhelming evidence supports the fact that a mother’s milk is the best for her baby.
But what if that milk isn’t available?
Connie Brasier, RN, IBCLC, knows it’s a reality for some moms.
That’s why she’s super excited Integris Canadian Valley Hospital has made a commitment to help those infants in need.
“I knew about the Oklahoma Mother’s Milk Bank … and I knew there was a way you could become a donor depot so I contacted them,” Brasier said. “The Mother’s Milk Bank was all for it because Western Oklahoma doesn’t have a lot of donor drop-off sites. Anyone who was a donor had to ship it or take it to Lincoln and 10th St.”
The appropriate contacts were made through the Integris legal department and the Mother’s Milk Bank supplied the freezer to use.
Brasier says Integris Canadian Valley Hospital is now the only facility statewide that accepts donations 24 hours a day.
Once the milk is received it is forwarded to the downtown OKC site to be pasteurized for safety and then distributed to the various hospital sites where it has been prescribed.
The milk itself is available by prescription only from a neonatologist. It’s used for compromised NICU patients – largely pre-term infants.
Sometimes depending on medical conditions or the medications that a mother is on milk from the infant’s own mother is either not available or an option.
“We know a mother’s milk is the best milk for those little infants,” Brasier said.
Brasier said there have been instances where mothers have miscarried but have pumped their milk and continued to donate to the milk bank.
“The ideal donor is any mom who is lactating,” Brasier said.
Donors are taken through a health screening and then asked to donate at least 100 ounces in the first year.
“For most moms that’s pretty easy to do,” Brasier said.
Brasier recognizes that donors will never see the recipients of the milk or all the good that comes from it.
But she has.
“They are making a huge difference,” Brasier said. “Hopefully, the donors are passionate about breastfeeding and breast milk for their infants and others and know the importance of that. These babies who are compromised formula is OK but if it’s breast milk it’s more easily digested so for illnesses and intestinal issues they are making a huge difference.”
“The way it can easily be broken down is much more gentle on these infants that are compromised. It is a good thing.”
Brasier breastfed her children. When she became a nurse 11 years ago she was eventually led to working with new moms.
“I’m a big cheerleader,” Brasier said. “For those moms who are new it was easy for me to get into that role. I think women can be especially hard on themselves. If we say we want to breastfeed and then we struggle with it we kind of take it personal.”
With the encouragement of her manager, Jill Hughes, RN, Brasier pursued her certification as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
Her entire nursing focus is now on lactation both in the hospital and for outpatients.
The Oklahoma Mothers’ Milk Bank mission is to provide donor milk for critically ill and/or preterm infants in Oklahoma and surrounding states to improve short and long-term health care outcomes. Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of preterm births in the nation, with one in seven babies born premature.
The use of human milk, in lieu of other nutritional methods, greatly increases the survivability and development of these babies. Additional goals include educating mothers and the medical community about the superiority of mother’s milk over alternative forms of nutrition for infants and young children.
The Oklahoma Mothers’ Milk bank was the 13th milk bank operating in the United States when it began processing milk in August 2013. Prior to OMMB, the closest bank to Oklahoma was in Texas. There are frequent shortages nationwide as the demand for human milk in hospitals continues to increase.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Brasier said of mothers being able to breastfeed. “I know just for the health of our society in general I think we’re making a difference just one baby at a time. We know breastfeeding gives us life-long protection from a lot of illnesses.”