Grand Opening: Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes

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Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes

A great deal of milk, sweat, and tears has gone into the long-awaited and highly anticipated grand opening of the Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes (Milk Bank WGL), which will open its doors on September 1, 2015. The 3,200-square-foot Elk Grove Village facility is expected to be fully accredited and shipping pasteurized donor milk to area hospitals and outpatients within three months of the grand opening.

mother's milk bank of the western great lakes
The 2014 Race to Save Tiny Lives. Photo courtesy of Summer Kelly, Executive Director, Mother’s Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes.

A human milk bank is a service that collects, screens, processes, and distributes human milk donated voluntarily by nursing mothers who are not biologically related to the infant recipient. In recent years, the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have all issued statements declaring the importance of human milk for optimal infant feeding. Donor milk banks put several safeguards into place, including an extensive screening process for donors, to make this a safe and healthy process. Facilities such as the Milk Bank WGL are saving the lives of sick infants nationwide. Donor milk is dispensed only by prescription to babies with medical and/or nutritional needs requiring human milk.

Mothers' Milk Bank WGL, Mothers' Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes
A baby receiving the benefits of milk banking, wearing Bears and Packers gear, reflecting the dual state (IL and WI) milk bank. Photo courtesy of Summer Kelly, Executive Director, Mother’s Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes.

The act of mothers providing breastmilk for a baby that is not biologically their own dates back thousands of years. Evidence of wet nursing is depicted in tomb paintings in ancient Egypt and is also found in the Code of Hammurabi from 2250 B.C. in which wet nurses were described. At the turn of the 20th century, most children were fed human milk, either from their own mother or from a wet nurse. In the U.S., the first donor milk bank was founded in Boston in 1911. During the past 100 years, North American milk banking has evolved from an idea to a sophisticated process due to facilities like this opening.

The Milk Bank WGL officially organized in 2011 when founder Marissa Groseenbach delivered a premature baby at a local hospital who, like many premature babies, needed supplemental feeding in addition to Marissa’s pumping and breastfeeding. She asked for pasteurized human milk in place of formula and was surprised the hospital did not have access to this life-saving resource. This was her inspiration to start a milk bank, and during the last several years she has gathered a dedicated team from Illinois and Wisconsin to make this dream a reality. Finding this particular facility took more than a year as it was important to find a site that was large enough to fit the needs of this unique business: a food-processing company with an emphasis on community outreach, nutrition, lactation education, and clinical and laboratory research. The majority of funding for the facility came from charitable contributions, grants, and loans.

We spoke to Summer Kelly, the Executive Director of the Milk Bank WGL about this exciting opening.

Q:  What does the opening of this processing facility mean for donors, hospitals, and the patients you will serve?

A:  “Our local Illinois/Wisconsin non-profit milk bank will help ensure that our region’s sickest and most vulnerable babies have access to safe and affordable pasteurized donor human milk. As a non-profit milk bank, all of our net profit will be reinvested into our charitable programs. We will be able to provide reduced price or free pasteurized donor human milk to struggling, low-income and middle-class families in Illinois and Wisconsin. We will also invest in education and research programs that benefit local health care providers and researchers.”

Several nearby Midwestern states have active non-profit milk banks, and the Milk Bank WGL currently runs one of the largest milk depot networks in the country where moms can drop off milk at 29 different locations. Donor milk is accepted that has been pumped up to six months ago (or nine months if stored in a deep freeze.)

Q:  How can additional donor banks like this open?

A:  “We belong to the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). Ideally, every state will have a non-profit HMBANA milk bank. With 17 states currently being served (we serve Illinois and Wisconsin), there is a lot of room for future development.”

Please help the Milk Bank WGL celebrate its grand opening by attending its annual Race to Save Tiny Lives on September 12 in Long Grove. This family-friendly 5K run/3K walk is hosted by the Rotary Club and is a wonderful way to support this organization. Please register for the Race to Save Tiny Lives here.

Also, please stay tuned to Little Lake County for information on how you can donate milk yourself and help sick babies thrive and prosper.

For more information on the Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes, please visit its website.
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Grand Opening: Mothers\' Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes
About Shelby Younge 18 Articles
Shelby has lived in counties across the U.S. from New York to California. She has worked in catering, public relations, and as a sales executive for a marketing and travel company before giving up her mundane life of exotic food, party planning and international binge travel for the glamour of poopy diapers and being known by name at Costco. She calls Lakewood home with her three sons and a daughter ranging in age from nine to one, and is married to her college sweetheart. Shelby enjoys cooking, exercising, coaching, church-going, wining and dining with friends and spying on her kids under the guise of “volunteering” at school. You can find Shelby dancing through the aisles of the dollar store, sporting heels and nursing her baby in the Ergo, while looking for inspiration for the next family theme day. Or, she might be chauffeuring her kiddos to one of their 1,204 activities while belting out Kids Bop (but using the original lyrics) in her gluten-free cracker-filled family truckster.

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