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Pittsburgh breastmilk bank helps babies in NICU

Pittsburgh breastmilk bank helps babies in NICU
Pittsburgh breastmilk bank helps babies in NICU 02:00

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Doctors and nurses will tell you breastmilk does amazing things for babies, but did you know it's also lifesaving? Local hospitals are making babies stronger and healthier thanks to a milk bank in the Pittsburgh area.

There's a building along Penn Avenue that doesn't have a big bright sign but that is doing incredible work inside.

"We are able to exist because of the generosity of the moms of our region," said executive director Denise O'Connor.

Since 2016, the Mid-Atlantic Mother's Milk Bank has helped some of the sickest babies in our hospitals, including UPMC.

"People are always surprised that we take care of nearly every NICU in the state of Pennsylvania," said O'Connor. And that's because of the constant and consistent donations coming in. "Our first year was 57,000 ounces. We do 35,000 ounces a month now," O'Connor said. 

With so much donor milk coming into the facility every day, the process to get it ready before it leaves is a meticulous one, but it has to be. The tiniest of patients are using it to survive -- like at UPMC Children's.

"We found in studies that they're less likely to die and less likely to have infections," said Dr. Greg Barretto, the regional medical director for newborn medicine. 

"It takes nutrition in the NICU one step further. We know we have a product that the babies tolerate very well," said neonatal dietician Roberta Rodocker. But the milk also makes its way to babies at home who have medical needs.

"We can definitely individualize for the needs of the baby," Rodocker said. 

It's not just in the Pittsburgh-area but surrounding states too like West Virginia. "It really is a partnership, and nonprofit milk banks work best when the hospitals and the milk banks are teams," said O'Connor. 

It's a service more families are turning to because even the smallest of drops of donor milk can improve the life of the smallest human. You can learn more about the Mid-Atlantic Mother's Milk Bank online

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