Giving birth is one of the most vulnerable experiences in a woman’s life. While the risks to the mother can be tremendous, most women are preoccupied with ensuring the health and safety of their baby. So, when a baby ends up in the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), it would certainly ease a mother’s mind to know there’s a remedy that reduces the mortality rate of pre-term and low birth weight infants by as much as 75%. It’s something that can be thought of as both natural and almost supernatural in its restorative abilities – that is, human breastmilk.
However, there’s a catch. Sometimes breastmilk doesn’t come in for the mother in the necessary timeframe. This is especially true in cases where the baby is born prematurely. Fortunately for our community, there is a local resource that can help in those dire circumstances.
The Mothers’ Milk Bank of Tennessee (MMBT) was established nearly ten years ago by two couples, Brister and Helen Scott and Bruce and Susan Campbell; Amy Painter, MMBT marketing director, explains that the two were joined together by their mutual “passion for saving medically fragile babies.” Having both spent their careers in the medical field (Susan, a neonatologist, and Helen, a board-certified lactation consultant and registered nurse), they saw firsthand both the incredible benefits of human breastmilk and the type of circumstances that necessitated donations.
“As of today, MMBT has established 16 milk drop depots across the state, approved 592 milk donors, and shipped over 500,000 feedings of life saving pasteurized human donor milk,” says Painter. MMBT boasts an impressive record, but the impact of this organization cannot be understood just based on the metrics alone; what brings it home are the stories of those whose lives were not just changed, but made possible, by MMBT.
One such story is that of Lilliann Rednour, who was born six weeks early and weighed in at just 4 lbs, 14 oz. Painter recalls, “Lilliann and her mom, Kimberly, both faced challenges related to the preterm delivery. Kimberly wanted to breastfeed but experienced delayed lactation. Lilliann was able to receive pasteurized donor human milk from Mothers’ Milk Bank of Tennessee during her NICU stay until her mother was able to breastfeed. Today, Lilliann is a happy and healthy toddler thanks to the generous moms across Tennessee that made it possible for her to receive donor milk.”
There are many stories like this. And while recipients have obviously benefitted from MMBT, donors have as well. Mothers who have tragically lost their babies have been able to donate their milk supply – giving them both a profound sense of purpose in their grief and a meaningful way to honor the life of the child they lovingly carried.
All donations are an incredible act of generosity and we’re so thankful that we live in a community where mothers look out for all babies. MMBT is the mechanism that makes it possible for mothers to support other mothers, and to save the lives of the smallest and most vulnerable among us. And it’s a great comfort to know that when we’re at our most vulnerable, the mothers of our community and MMBT stand at the ready to lend a helping hand.