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Beacon and The Milk Bank bring breast milk distribution center to Michiana

Memorial Hospital mother/baby nurse educator and lactation coordinator Mellisa Lathion

The national baby formula shortage is still a pressing concern for many new and expectant mothers. Fortunately, Beacon Health System has implemented a new program to help alleviate the problem and provide nutrition to some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

Beacon and the non-profit The Milk Bank launched a Milk Express site on October 12 at Memorial Hospital to provide local families access to pasteurized breast milk.

There are currently over 15 Milk Express locations across Indiana, as well as Missouri and Kentucky. The next closest dispensation sites are in Goshen, Culver and Merrillville.

The Milk Bank primarily dispenses pasteurized donor milk for infants in the hospital because for babies born too small, too sick, or too soon, human milk saves lives. Dispensation sites like the new one at Memorial help families establish a successful breastfeeding routine, including families who are experiencing small gaps in feeding due to illness or other reasons.

The Milk Bank also serves families who pick up milk in their community or have it shipped to their home. Families can now order up to 40 ounces online and pick the order up at the Milk Express site.

The Beacon Health System project began in late 2021 when The Milk Bank clinical director Sarah Long approached mother/baby nurse educator and lactation coordinator Mellisa Lathion with the idea of adding Memorial Hospital as a Milk Express site since it already functioned as a donation site. Lathion presented the idea to the hospital leadership team as well as the Women and Children’s Services division and everyone agreed this would be a new and exciting way to serve the community.

“The opportunity to become a Milk Express site through our partnership with The Milk Bank is exciting and provides further options for our community, specifically our youngest and newest members, to receive human donor milk,” said Lathion.

The benefits of breast milk for both preemies and full-term infants are endless, according to Lathion. Human donor milk has protective nutrients that help shield preemies from necrotizing enterocolitis, a gastrointestinal condition which can sometimes be fatal, while also boosting immunity and decreasing the risk of developing chronic illnesses in healthy babies.

For Long, the partnership is a way for The Milk Bank to expand its reach across Indiana while also allowing Memorial Hospital to reach its full potential for community-based breast milk donation and dispensation.

“The Milk Bank is proud of our longtime partnership with Memorial Hospital which has been a milk depot for us since 2010, making milk donation convenient,” said Long. “Expanding services to include a Milk Express program increases access to pasteurized donor milk for infants at home. Memorial holds the prestigious Baby-Friendly® designation, the gold standard in breastfeeding support, and we are delighted to expand our partnership to provide comprehensive services to support breastfeeding families.”

Aided by funds from a federal CDC Health Disparities Grant awarded by the Indiana Department of Health to help tackle health equity issues related to infant mortality, Lathion also worked with Long to bring safe donor breast milk to Michiana.

The addition of a Milk Express site at Memorial not only complements the existing depot, but also allows the hospital to provide an invaluable service typically found in larger urban areas.

“This is a great opportunity to re-highlight that we already were an established milk depot that maybe wasn’t well-known,” said Lathion. “Beacon strives to be a leader by looking for new collaborators to connect to the community with heart and accomplish big things in small ways.”

Learn more

Approved donors are welcome to donate their milk at the site. Anyone interested in becoming a milk donor can be prescreened online at www.themilkbank.org/donate-milk.

Families can order pasteurized donor milk at www.themilkbank.org/request-milk-families/ and pick their order up at Memorial Hospital. The Milk Bank offers a sliding scale Medical Relief Fund for families who need access to donor milk for medical reasons.

To learn more about The Milk Bank, go to: https://www.themilkbank.org/ or contact Mellisa Lathion at 574.647.7339.

About R.J. Pales

R.J. Pales is a Media Relations Specialist for Beacon Health System. He enjoys reading literary classics, acoustic guitar music and all things Mediterranean cuisine.