Massive breast milk donation will help premature babies, moms

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Susan Griffin
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Weymouth mother donates breast milk to aid premature babies

When Weymouth resident Julie Garber’s twin daughters were receiving care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at South Shore Hospital, she worried she wouldn’t be able to provide her babies with enough breast milk.

“My fear was that I wasn’t going to have enough,” Garber said. “And I ended up having an overabundance!”

Garber, an occupational therapist at South Shore Health, knew she wanted to give back to the NICU in some way for the care she and her babies received. She learned about the milk donation program at South Shore Hospital which works in partnership with Mother’s Milk Bank Northeast. 

“I saw how breast milk could help the babies in the NICU.  When I had an overabundance and realized that my girls didn’t need all of it, I wanted to be able to donate to help others.”

Garber delivered 3,031 ounces of breast milk on December 12 to South Shore Hospital, a staggering gift, which is about 10 times the normal amount given by a single donor.

Centuries ago, a mother would call a wet nurse when she was unable to breastfeed her baby. The practice fell away with the emergence of formula milk.  It is common among mothers who give birth to premature babies to find difficulty producing breast milk immediately.

“Getting this amount of breast milk from one person is just fantastic,” said Ellen Fitzgerald, NICU Lactation Consultant at South Shore Hospital. “Our usual donation is between 250 to 500 ounces, so this is a massive donation and it will be greatly appreciated by all the babies in our NICU and other babies around New England.”

In 2016, South Shore Hospital partnered with Mother’s Milk Bank Northeast to open a human milk depot— a community location where screened donors who have more breast milk than their own babies need can drop off donations for shipment to a milk bank. The milk bank screens, pasteurizes, and tests the donated breast milk, and then dispenses it primarily to premature and sick babies whose mothers do not have enough breast milk.

Milk donor screenings are modeled after blood donor screenings. Garber, a mother of eight, went through the screening process, where she shared her health history, got approval from a physician and took a blood test. These measures are taken to ensure the safety of the milk for the fragile premature and sick babies who will benefit from the donation.

Visit the Mother’s Milk Bank Northeast website to learn more about donating breast milk at South Shore Hospital, or call a Donor Intake Coordinator for screening at (617) 527-6263 x3 or email donate [at] ()

See the donation coming in to South Shore Hospital in the video below.