Hospital collects breast milk for mothers who can't nurse

HARTFORD, CT (NBC) - Throughout her pregnancy, Wendy Sears planned to breast-feed her twin baby girls when they were born, but the babies arrived nearly two months early and Wendy's milk didn't come quite as quickly.

Because of a program at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, the twins are being fed breast milk. It just does not come from their mother.

The hospital provides donated breast milk to babies who were born before 32 weeks or weigh less than 4 pounds when their mother can't provide it, for whatever reason.

"In the beginning, I had a hard time really making enough just for one, much less for both," said Sears, of Scotland, CT, who believes in the benefits of breast milk. "Every study you could ever read suggests that breastfeeding gives them immunity for so many different things. It helps them in so many ways. There's really no reason not to."

The donor milk is pasteurized to eliminate any chance it carries disease.

"The donors are screened the same way as someone who would be donating blood or donating an organ," explained Dr. Kathleen Marinelli, a neonatologist at the medical center and medical director of the New England Breast Milk Bank outside of Boston. "So they're screened for all the viruses and lifestyle issues and drug use and things that would make you worry about using this milk.

"It helps mature their GI tract. It has immune factors in it," she added. "It has live cells in it. It has all types of things that help them mature and develop in ways they otherwise wouldn't have having come out of mom's womb early."

Hartford mom Cate Vallone doesn't need milk from the center. Instead, she's donating it. Her baby was allergic to something in her diet. She couldn't use the 70 ounces of milk she had frozen, so she offered to share her supply.

"One of my girlfriends had a baby just a few weeks after I did and she was breastfeeding also and not making quite enough milk," Vallone said. "On one hand, I guess it could seem weird if you hadn't done it before, but there's lots of times we share some of ourselves with another person. There's donating blood and stuff, so I didn't' see how this was too different from that."

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