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Family Birth Center announces first use of donor breast milk

The Family Birth Center at Skagit Valley Hospital hit a noteworthy milestone recently when a premature baby born there received donated breast milk

Family Birth Donation Skagit Regional Health

The focus of the program is to provide milk to vulnerable populations and provide a safe source of human milk when their mother’s own milk may not be 100% available. This is not offered at every hospital. The staff at the SVH Family Birth Center are very excited to see this come to fruition after working on this effort for the past year.

“We got started on this through our collaboration with our Seattle Children’s Neonatal consultants,” said Jennifer Taylor, MD, Pediatric Hospitalist at SVH. “It’s an important aspect of care for preterm newborns. They recommended we pursue this as part of our care for preemies.”

The donor breast milk is provided to SVH through a certified milk bank. The program is available primarily for Special Care Nursery babies born in the SVH Family Birth Center.

“We are receiving milk from  Northwest Mothers Milk Bank,” said Tami Schnell, MHA, BSN, RNC-OB, Regional Director of Women’s and Children’s Services for Skagit Regional Health.

One out of every eight infants born are premature, and this program enhances the care for premature babies born at the Family Birth Center. Prematurity puts an infant at risk for life-threatening infections, prolonged hospital admission and lifelong disabilities. Evidence-based research shows that the use of donor breast milk from an accredited milk bank should be the standard of care for supplementation of hospitalized premature and ill newborns.

“Donor breast milk can be life-saving for premature, small and fragile babies,” said MaryAnn Gebhard, RN, BSN, IBCLC, Staff Nurse at the SVH Family Birth Center. “Human breast milk offers the best nutrition for newborns and protection against many illnesses. Donor human milk will make a difference in the lives of Skagit County's premature infants and their families by reducing health complications, the length of hospital stay, and provide long-term health benefits.”

“At this time, community members cannot donate breast milk through Skagit Regional Health,” said Schnell. “However, that is something I am looking into.”

“We plan to continue the program indefinitely,” said Dr. Taylor. “This is part of our drive to care for earlier premature infants (33 weeks and eventually 32 weeks) so that we give quality care, close to home, to more of our Skagit community.”

For those who are interested in donating breast milk, please contact  Northwest Mothers Milk Bank to learn more about the donation process.

Photo caption: Couple pose with their newborn, who was the first premature baby born at SVH Family Birth Center to receive donated breast milk.