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Got (extra) milk? IVCH hosting new ‘Milk Depot’ for donated breast milk

Chelsea Dombrowski had a problem. Her freezer was filling up fast with extra breast milk after the birth of her son. As an “overproducer,” the La Salle mom said she’s pumping up to 70 ounces a day – about twice as much as three-month-old baby Leo can consume.

Now, thanks to a partnership between Illinois Valley Community Hospital and Mothers Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes establishing a “Milk Depot” at the hospital, Dombrowski says she can rest easy, knowing her breast milk won’t go to waste.

“We are super excited,” said Dombrowski, who brought in the program’s first donation – 103 ounces – on Tuesday.

Melissa Lenhausen, IVCH’s lactation specialist, who helped bring the program to IVCH, said Dombrowski’s timing was excellent.

“It just so happened we had a mom say ‘Hey, I’ve got a freezer full of milk, and I don’t know what to do with it.’ So we got blessed with our first mom to be able to donate,” Lenhausen said.

How does it work?

Lactacting mothers with extra milk can sign up to be donors with IVCH’s obstetrics unit, Lenhausen said. After a short health screening process, donors will be able to drop off frozen breast milk pumped at home for deep freeze storage at the hospital and eventual collection by the Mothers Milk Bank. After collection, the breast milk is tested, combined with milk from other mothers, and pasteurized for safety at the Mother’s Milk Bank facility in Elk Grove Village. From there it’s distributed to hospitals throughout the Midwest for use with infants with medical issues as well as mothers with low milk supply.

Location, location, location

The IVCH milk depot, one of 28 depots in the state, is the only facility of its type in the Illinois Valley. The nearest other facilities area all about at an hour away at locations like Rockford, Peoria and Bloomington, said Nicole Robbins, education and outreach specialist at the Elk Grove Village-based Mothers Milk Bank of the WGL.

Lenhausen said the hospital was proud to be the only local option for mothers looking to donate their breast milk.

“This is very important to our community. We want to start expanding our lactation services for moms out there and support them, get them as much help as they need on their journey,” Lenhausen said.

Ice, ice, baby

The new milk storage freezer in IVCH’s OB department, which was donated by the Mothers Milk Bank, keeps the donations at a chilly 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 celsius). The low temperatures allow the frozen milk to last up to a year. Milk stored in home freezers will only last six months, Lenhausen said.

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