Our outpatient milk bank is a state first
April 23, 2022
ProHealth has an interesting history with breast milk. Our pediatricians and staff helped set up a milk depot. Our CEO rode with an all-women club to help save precious cargo.
On April 23, 2022, ProHealth is starting an exciting new chapter. We are opening Connecticut's first non-hospital-based breast milk dispensary.
ProHealth's doctors and staff are devoted to serving the community. An example is the partnership between our pediatric care team in Glastonbury and Mother's Milk Bank Northeast.
Together, since 2020 they have collected 10,800 ounces of donated breast milk. This amounts to 30,000 feeds for hospitalized babies.
But the already impressive record is not completed. Soon, out-of-hospital milk dispensary services will also be available.
Susan Parker, APRN, is an International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. The brain behind the partnership with Mother's Milk and a provider at Glastonbury Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine (GPAM).
Professionally, she knows all about the benefits of breast milk. But her commitment to breast milk is more personal:
"When my children were babies, I struggled with milk supply. A friend of a friend offered their breast milk. This practice has been around for ages. But I was never comfortable with milk sharing.
In 2008, I went to a lactation conference. There I listened to one of Mothers' Milk founders. She talked about a milk bank in Massachusetts. She described all the safety measures.
I was happy to learn there was a safe way to use donor milk. At the same time I was frustrated. Why was this not common practice?"
In 2019, Susan proposed the idea of a breast milk depository to Dr. Ben Alvarez, President and CEO of ProHealth Physicians. He was instantly supportive of the project.
"The rest is history. We held our grand opening on February 29, 2020. Since then, we have experienced resounding support. Both from our local community, in the form of numerous donors, and ProHealth's leadership."
Making breast milk accessible
GPAM began collecting donations in a 500oz freezer. Soon milk drop-offs were averaging 400–500oz—some even 900oz. In light of this, the team got a larger freezer. Without space limitations, donations kept coming.
Encouraged by their success, and motivated by the goal of making breast milk widely available, Susan Parker and the team at GPAM have been actively working to add outpatient dispensary services to their milk depot.
This will be the first of its kind in Connecticut. It will bring life-saving nourishment closer to those who need it. "Most dispensaries are in hospitals. In specialty units such as NICUs. Our dispensary is accessible. Getting donated breast milk will be much easier."
Bikers for Babies
Since day one, Dr. Ben Alvarez has been a strong supporter of these efforts. As an ob/gyn, he is acutely aware of the impact breast milk donations can have.
In August 2020, the all-female Moving Violations Motor Club signed up to celebrate World Breastfeeding Month. The celebration consisted of a symbolic 90-mile ride. The goal was to take donations from Glastonbury to Mothers' Milk Bank Northeast, in Newton MA.
The week of the ride, Tropical Storm Isaias left many without power. At the time, GPAM's freezer had 1000oz of donated milk. The freezer was off due to the outage. Precious ounces were at risk of thawing. Quick action was needed to keep them from going to waste.
A symbolic gesture becomes a true saving mission
The Moving Violations team sprang into action. So did Dr. Alvarez, a long-time motorcycle rider. They worked together, helping save the day with a quick delivery.
About the experience riding with a women-only club, Dr. Alvarez had nothing but praise. "I was honored. They are tough, funny, and very nice ladies." And then he said with a laugh. "They said I was good. Unfortunately, I didn't meet the group requirements."
The Alvarez-Moving Violations team will join forces once again this August. This year's ride will also celebrate the addition of dispensary services to the Glastonbury depot.
Dr. Alvarez said, "ProHealth Physicians is dedicated to serving our patients. Helping vulnerable babies thrive is an extension of our mission. This is to help people live healthier lives.
With the dispensary, we are helping close some gaps in care. At the same time, we are strengthening our connection with the community. We look forward to a great future helping infants in need of this precious resource."
How the milk bank works
A milk bank collects milk from mothers who have more milk than their babies need. Milk is then screened, pasteurized and tested. It is then dispensed it to babies whose mothers do not have enough milk for them.
Become a donor
To learn more about becoming a donor please visit Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast to start the screening process. Once you’ve been screened, you can schedule a drop-off time at ProHealth by calling: 1-860-652-3325.
To learn more about receiving donated milk, please visit Mother's Milk Bank Northeast to learn more.