I was lucky enough to attend a behind the scenes tour at Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas (MMBNT) in Fort Worth. MMBNT is one of 13 active milk banks in the US that are a part of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). All HMBANA milk banks are non-profit organizations, meaning they do not make a profit from the milk they process.
MMBNT was opened in September 2004 and dispenses about 15,000 ounces of milk per month. They have 8 depot locations within the DFW metroplex, including a number of local hospitals. Eighteen depot locations are outside of the DFW area, including Miami and Las Vegas. Milk dropped there is shipped and processed in Fort Worth.
Milk being processed by lab techs
- I learned about several myths while at MMBNT from President Amy Vickers.
- Myth: Milk banks charge a lot of money for milk.
Truth: Milk banks typically charge the hospitals that they provide milk to a processing fee. It is often half of what it costs the milk bank to process the milk. Almost 70% of the milk that leaves MMBNT is charitable. Additionally, MMBNT has never had to turn away a baby with a medical need for pasteurized breastmilk.
- Myth: Donor moms are responsible for blood tests.
Truth: MMBNT pays for all testing done for moms to become donors. In addition to paying for tests, MMBNT will provide donor moms with containers to put milk into, and pay for boxes and shipping for the milk to arrive at its Fort Worth location if the donor mom doesn't have a depot nearby.
- Myth: There is a minimum requirement required to donate.
Truth: This one has an ounce of truth. While MMBNT does have a minimum of 100 ounces to donate, it is 100 ounces over the span you donate, not for the initial donation. Bereaved moms who wish to donate do not have a limit.
- Myth: Milk banks won't give milk to babies who aren't in the NICU.
Truth: Milk banks typically don't have milk to give to any infants other than those that are critically ill. Approximately 75% of the milk goes to medically fragile infants in the NICU and the remaining 25% goes to infants sick at home (waiting for organ or bone marrow transplants, etc). 30 ounces of breastmilk can feed 15 NICU babies. There's a medical advisory board (consisting of a neonatologist, social worker, and chaplain) that aids in the decision of who gets the milk available. They don't know how the milk is paid for so they are able to make an unbiased decision based on medical need.
- Myth: All milk banks are the same.
Truth: All milk banks are not the same. Banks operating under HMBANA are non-profit organizations and are primarily funded through grants and donations. There are several "milk banks" which are actually depots for a large for-profit company. The company pays the depots, but not the moms pumping the milk. If you decide to donate to a milk bank, be sure it is under the HMBANA umbrella so you know your milk is going to the most critically ill NICU babies.
Interested in learning more about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas? Visit their website, read about donor moms experiences on their blog, or interact at on their Facebook page.