HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Katelyn Chapuis had too much of a good thing.
After giving birth two years ago, Chapuis produced more than enough breast milk to satisfy her son's needs, so she froze the rest. Seeing that the baby wouldn't be able to consume the surplus milk, she sought a way to get it to infants who need it the most.
"I couldn't just throw my liquid gold away," she said. "Knowing how beneficial breast milk is for all babies -- especially premature and sick infants in the neonatal intensive care unit -- I decided to become a milk donor."
Packaging and shipping her breast milk to the Milk Bank, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit organization, wasn't easy for Chapuis, a Hannibal Regional Hospital registered nurse who was working nights at the time. It required a 50-minute drive to Quincy, Ill., to buy dry ice and send the milk shipment through UPS.
The other option was taking it to a Milk Depot sponsored by the Milk Bank at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis. Chapuis said she'd deliver milk whenever she made a trip to the city.
"Even then, I still faced some conflicts with scheduling drop-offs and the amount of milk I could drop off at one time," she said. "Had there been a Milk Depot in my community, my donating experience would've been much easier."
Chapuis and other local mothers are now in luck. Hannibal Regional Hospital, in partnership with the Milk Bank, on Tuesday marked the opening of the hospital's Milk Depot. The first of its kind in the area, Hannibal Regional's Milk Depot will join three others in Missouri.
After undergoing a series of screenings, mothers can bring unused breast milk to the hospital, where Diane Bibb, Hannibal Regional's lactation consultant, will package their donations and send them to the Milk Bank. The Milk Bank tests donations for bacteria growth, pasteurizes them and retests them before providing the milk to hospitals across the U.S.
"This is going to make it convenient and easy for moms here in our community," Bibb said.
Easy is key, especially if milk banks want to collect enough donations to meet infants' needs. The Human Milk Banking Association of North America requires 9 million ounces a year to fulfill demand, but only 3.2 million ounces are being donated.
Donated milk often is used in cases of premature birth, adoption and absent or insufficient lactation. Infants consistently fed breast milk also have a lower risk of developing asthma, childhood obesity, Type 2 diabetes, ear and respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome, and gastrointestinal infections that can be fatal in premature babies, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health reports.
"Mother's own milk is best, and we still support that as breast-feeding advocates, but in the event that mother's own milk is not available, pasteurized donor human milk from a milk bank like ourselves is recommended," said Sarah Long, Milk Bank clinical coordinator.
Chapuis said having a Milk Depot available in Hannibal will help donor mothers and babies.
"As a result, more infants in NICUs will benefit from the lifesaving gift of mother's milk," she said.
HOW TO DONATE
º Call the Milk Bank at 317-536-1670 to participate in a telephone health screening and arrange to complete required forms.
º Complete the potential donor packet and obtain the signatures of health care providers for the baby and mother.
º Contact Diane Bibb at Hannibal Regional Hospital, 573-406-2122, to schedule a one-time blood test, for free.
º Receive a donor identification number.
º Make arrangements to deliver your frozen breast milk to Hannibal Regional Hospital. Depot drop-offs must be prearranged to ensure timely shipping.