CHKD seeks breast milk donations for babies in NICU; Newport News mom steps in to help

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Posted at 5:00 PM, Mar 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-09 05:41:52-05

NORFOLK, Va.— There is a way to share the gift of health for the smallest, most fragile lives. We're talking about the need for breast milk, also known as liquid gold for babies in the NICU at CHKD in Norfolk.

Experts there tell News 3 they're in desperate need of breast milk donations.

At the Kings Daughter Milk Bank at CHKD in Norfolk, they are looking for healthy lactating mothers, who produce more than what is needed for their own baby.

Cheyenne Ruiz, a new mother said, "I knew that I had a pretty good supply, and I was pretty sure that I could pump plenty extra to donate."

Ruiz had a baby a few months ago. One night she saw an article pop up on her phone about breast milk shortages in hospitals, and that sparked her curiosity.

"I never heard about breast milk donations before which was kind of crazy to me. When I did see the article I didn't even know that this was an option, let alone that there was a shortage," said Ruiz.

That led Ruiz to instantly apply to become a CHKD breast milk donor. After being accepted last week she has already donated 182 ounces.

"It is very rewarding, it is very fulfilling," said Ruiz.

Not only for Ruiz but for health leaders and babies in the NICU. CHKD leaders said the need for milk donations are in high demand and has increased by 20%. However, on a good day, the milk bank can process about 2,000 ounces a day that can feed many babies and provide treatment for babies up and down the east coast for several days.

Ashlynn Baker, Nurse/Director, The King's Daughters Milk Bank said "It really started with the onset of the pandemic. The need of donations have been higher than it ever has, especially with separation of mom and baby with worry about virus and its impact."

Along with the recent recall on infant formula that has made a formula shortage worse.

We want milk donations to be a common conversation just like blood donations," said Baker.

The milk that is donated to the milk bank mostly stays local, but is sometimes shipped to sick babies in NICUs across the country.

It takes roughly 20-40 minutes a day to pump for preemies and then store the milk for donation. Baker says it is easy to get started.

Call 757-668-MILK and start the screening process.

The first thing health leaders at the milk bank do is a phone interview that takes roughly 10-15 minutes. The second step is the online questionnaire that you would complete on your own time, and lastly, you take a blood draw to test for diseases that could be transmitted through breast milk.