Area to have one of few milk banks in U.S.


The Union County WIC Office will soon become a drop-off location for the OhioHealth Mothers’ Milk Bank. Mothers can donate milk to babies in need, primarily those in the NICU. Pictured are mothers and their children during an August breastfeeding awareness and support program hosted by the Union County Health Department. (Photo submitted)

The Union County Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Office will soon become a drop-off location for one of only 24 milk banks in the nation.
The OhioHealth Mothers’ Milk Bank allows mothers to donate their milk to be used for newborns whose mothers are unable to produce enough milk for them, typically those in the Newborn Intensive Care Union (NICU).
Miah Wurtsbaugh, Union County Breastfeeding Peer, said the donated milk is crucial to the survival of babies in need.
“It’s like if we were to need blood to save our lives, it’s that important,” she said.
Wurtsbaugh said OhioHealth coordinates a safe, easy process for women to become donors.
Any interested mother can visit the OhioHealth website to indicate interest. She will then undergo a screening for risky behaviors and lifestyle choices. The mother will also receive a comprehensive blood test to screen for HIV, HTLV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Syphilis.
Wurtsbaugh said there is no cost to the mother, as blood work will be covered by either OhioHealth or the mother’s insurance.
She said the process is relatively non-invasive, as the blood work includes tests many pregnant women have already undergone.
Once a mother is approved to donate, Wurtsbaugh said they will receive a security code that is used to label their milk.
All donors need to do is drop off their milk at the Union County WIC Office, Wurtsbaugh said, where it will be placed in a designated freezer, labeled and picked up by an OhioHealth milk courier within a week.
“We really want to make this as easy for our community as possible,” she said.
Although Wurtsbaugh said breastfeeding can be exhausting, she said pondering one question is enough motivation for many women to donate milk: “What if their baby came from the NICU?”
Often times, in the case of premature babies, Wurtsbaugh said a mother’s hormones or stress levels may prevent her from producing enough milk to feed her child.
That’s where donors come in.
She said donations can have an exponential impact, as one ounce of breast milk is enough to feed three premature babies for a full day.
Wurtsbaugh said about 50,000 ounces of milk are donated yearly and distributed by OhioHealth to 75 hospitals throughout Ohio, 13 states and even Canada.
She said the need for mother’s milk is increasing, as many doctors treat it similarly to “medicine” that protects a premature baby’s health.
A mother’s milk contains antibodies that help defend babies from illnesses and infections, Wurtsbaugh explained.
“It’s more than just giving them food – it’s protecting them,” she said.
She said there is scientific evidence that a mother’s milk adapts based on a baby’s needs. Under a microscope, formula looks to be stagnant, whereas breast milk is moving.
It’s so critical to a baby’s healthy development that Wurtsbaugh said doctors are in the process of making mother’s milk available by prescription to be used for babies at home.
The ability to help children in need is something she believes mothers are willing to go above and beyond for, especially within the local community.
“Something I’ve noticed about Marysville as a community is that a lot of us love to give back,” Wurtsbaugh said.
For instance, she said a local mom purchased the freezer that will be used for drop-off in the WIC office only three hours after Wurtsbaugh posted a request for donations online.
Jennifer Thrush, Union County Health Department Public Information Officer, said this mother’s generosity is just one testament of “a generation of women who are supporting one another.”
As a donor herself, Wurtsbaugh said knowing you’re able to help other babies – and their mothers – is deeply rewarding.
“I look at this bag of milk I pumped and I think, how many lives did I help today?” she said.

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