BELMONT — The first few days of parenthood can be stressful enough, but for mothers having a difficult time breastfeeding, it’s especially concerning. One option is to use formula, but that carries a risk, because statistics show that once mothers start using formula to feed their baby, they tend to stick with the formula.
For mothers who want to continue breastfeeding but need some supplementation, there’s another choice: using milk donated by other mothers. And, now, thanks to an innovative partnership between LRGHealthcare and Mother’s Milk Bank Northeast, any mother who needs more milk for her baby can get some in Belmont, at the Caring for Kids practice located in the Belmont Medical Center, which held a ribbon-cutting for the dispensary on Wednesday evening.
“It’s really a cutting-edge thing that they’re doing here, the community is really lucky to have this here,” said Ann Marie Lindquist, director of community relations for the Newton, Massachusetts-based Mother’s Milk Bank Northeast.
Donated milk was available through the milk bank for babies at 11 New Hampshire hospitals, but once those babies went home, the only way for their mothers to access more milk, should they need it, was to get a prescription from their primary care provider and have the milk shipped overnight from the milk bank.
Overnight might sound quick, but if a mother is reaching out for extra milk, it’s likely that her baby needs it immediately.
“As a new mother, the thought that you can go down the street or across town (and get milk), it’s very comforting,” Lindquist said.
Sue Coulter, a provider at Caring for Kids, said there could be a wide range of reasons a new mother would need the milk.
“If the baby’s not gaining weight, if the baby’s not latching on well, it could be pretty broad,” Coulter said.
Christine Farrell, office manager for the practices located within the Belmont Medical Center, said that the mother need not be an LRGHealthcare patient. If she receives primary care elsewhere, the Caring for Kids staff would be able to work with her provider to get a prescription so that she can walk out with some milk for her baby.
Farrell said the dispensary fits in well with the “wrap-around services” that Caring for Kids offers for new mothers, including one-on-one sessions with a veteran, licensed lactation consultant, telephone consultations, and a support group for breastfeeding mothers.
While many healthy babies have been raised using formula, an ever-growing body of evidence shows that breastfeeding is the best way to ensure the health of both the baby and the mother, with positive outcomes that extend for years beyond infancy, Coulter said.
Milk from the Milk Bank isn’t cheap, though, around $4 per ounce. Lindquist said that cost reflects the steps taken to ensure its safety. The milk is screened, tested and pasteurized before it is frozen. Because of the cost, most mothers who use the milk bank do so as a temporary support until she can develop her own supply. Insurance does not yet cover the cost of milk except in the cases of dire need. However, the milk bank may have some financial assistance available to mothers who can’t afford the milk.
Lindquist and Coulter hoped that having the dispensary local in the Lakes Region would help increase awareness of donated milk, both for mothers who might need supplementary milk and for mothers who have milk to donate.
Those who would be interested in giving milk can’t currently bring it to Caring for Kids, though. There are five drop-off locations in New Hampshire, with the nearest Memorial Hospital in Conway.
Donating mothers would be asked some screening questions, similar to those involved in donating blood.
“Moms can give back to other moms in their community in this way – they would know that they are part of the effort to feed the babies in their community,” Lindquist said.
Mother’s Milk Dispensary, which provides milk to mothers in 13 states in the Northeast, has screened more than 5,000 donor mothers since 2011, whose milk has benefitted countless babies.
The partnership with LRGHealthcare, though, is a first for the organization. The milk bank has never made its services available in an outpatient setting before.
“This is really, really exciting, we’re thrilled to be here,” Lindquist said.
“To bring it to our community is special to us,” Farrell added.