Milk Matters: A Drop From The Milk Bank

Updated: Sep 8





By: Alexis Wheeler, Marketing & Creative Social Media Intern

Sarah Long, IBCLC, is the Director of Clinical Operations of The Milk Bank. Sarah shares her story from being a Midwife in the UK and her journey to finding her calling at The Milk Bank, where she can help and support families providing Mother's milk to babies in need.


Alexis: You are both a Registered Midwife and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Tell us about your journey and background in healthcare. Why did you decide to earn an IBCLC certification in addition to your BS in Midwifery?


Sarah: My career in maternal-child health began at Birmingham University, where I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Midwifery and was registered as a Midwife (RM) in the UK in 1997 until moving to the USA in 2008. My passion was always with breastfeeding, especially after breastfeeding my own three children; therefore, I obtained my IBCLC board credential in 2011, allowing me to practice as an IBCLC in the USA. In 2013 I had the opportunity to expand my learning and career path when I joined TMB as Director of Clinical Operations.


Alexis: What is the mission of The Milk Bank, and how did you choose to pivot your work? What does your role look like, and how does your background in healthcare shape your ability to lead as the Director of Clinical Operations?


Sarah: The Milk Bank is a non-profit organization that promotes community health by expanding the safe use of human milk for all babies, especially premature and ill infants. My role as Director of Clinical Operations involves another passion of mine - education. I am responsible for educating both health professionals and the community on the importance of human milk and donation. In addition, overseeing the day-to-day operations of The Milk Bank provides me the unique opportunity to see the process from human donor milk recruitment to recipient.


Alexis: What makes donor milk unique, and why is it of particular importance that hospitals offer donor milk to babies both in the NICU and in the postpartum unit for full-term, healthy babies?


Sarah: Human milk is species-specific and therefore provides infants optimal protection and nutrition. The beneficial role of an exclusive human milk (HM) diet is well documented as a preventative health strategy and is even more crucial for preterm infants. Mothers' own milk is always the first option, but when not available, scientific evidence indicates Pasteurized Donor Human Milk (PDHM) offers the next best choice when supplementation is required. The Milk Bank's vision is to increase access to safe human milk for all infants.



Alexis: What happens to those infants and families who need donor milk but their hospital does not supply it as a resource?


Sarah: Unfortunately, these families will only have the option of formula supplementation – but we are working on making sure all delivering hospitals are aware of the service and offered education as to the importance of providing a donor milk program.


TMB provides outpatient programs that are expanding into the communities we serve – families can purchase PDHM directly from TMB and have the option to pick it up at a convenient dispensation site in the community or arrange to have milk shipped. For more information, please visit:


https://www.themilkbank.org/individuals

https://www.themilkbank.org/dmx



Alexis: If someone wanted to become a human milk donor, how much milk do they need to supply to qualify as a donor?


Sarah: Human milk donors are asked to donate at least 100 ounces of breast milk throughout their time as donors. To some, this may seem like a lot, but donor moms know that 100 ounces are just 20 milk storage bags filled with five (5) ounces of milk each!


Alexis: You are also the President of the Indiana Breastfeeding Coalition (IBC). How does the work you are doing with IBC and TMB help shape the breastfeeding landscape for the state of Indiana?


Sarah: Consistent messaging and diversifying breastfeeding support in communities remains a priority for Indiana as we collectively amplify voices and resources in the fight against infant mortality. Together, agencies and organizations such as IBC and TMB unite to implement policies needed to ensure every family has the support and resources they need for success.


Alexis: What is one memorable experience that has stood out to you that helps to demonstrate the impact that either giving or receiving human donor milk can have on a family?


Sarah: Every family has a unique story or situation, and we are privileged to come alongside them in their journey. Serving a family who has suffered unimaginable loss, either maternal or infant, profoundly affects all who work at TMB. In contrast, we are continually amazed by the generosity of our donors and the impact they have on helping another family during a time of need.


Alexis: How can we support the work The Milk Bank is doing today?


Sarah: You can assist by sharing our mission and raising awareness by educating the community of the importance of human milk banking, much like blood and organ donation, our work is lifesaving.


Alexis: What is your #1 need?


Sarah: Ensuring families and the community know and understand the importance of safe human milk and the work of TMB.






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