A baby is born prematurely and the mother is not able to produce enough milk on time — if at all. In situations like this, the Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas can help.
In 2018, the Fort Worth-based nonprofit delivered more than 600,000 ounces breast milk donated by local women to babies in need, serving more than 80 hospitals. That number has grown consistently each year since the organization was founded in 2004, when it dispensed 4,000 ounces.
This spring, Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas moved into a new, much bigger location in Benbrook so it can help nourish even more babies in the years to come.
“We needed more space to process more milk,” says Amy Trotter, MMBNT community relations director. “We thought our previous building (on West Magnolia Avenue) would be fine for a long time. But we grew and grew.”
The bank began receiving so much milk that they converted a conference room into more freezer space. Staff also kept bumping into each other in the tight building. A capital campaign was initiated in 2016 to raise funds, and construction on the Benbrook location began about a year ago.
At more than 13,000 square feet, the new building — at 7617 Benbrook Pkwy. — is nearly triple the size of their old space and features a 15-by-30-foot walk-in freezer, community education room, lactation counseling room, private mothers’ room, child activity center, and a milk processing laboratory three times larger than before.
How milk donation works
Trotter says the bank tries to make the donation process as easy as possible for mothers, and never with pressure.
“The way nature intended is that you usually have enough breast milk to feed your baby,” she says. “But sometimes moms go back to work and they’re pumping and producing more. Our typical mom is one who’s filled up a deep freezer in her garage and she doesn’t want to throw it away because she’s worked so hard for it, but she knows she’s never going to be able to feed her baby all of that milk.”
The donation process starts with a quick phone interview covering medical history. A blood test is next, which is free to the donor, and the bank works to find a convenient lab location. The donor then receives a welcome packet — including a T-shirt — and is considered part of the MMBNT family.
Milk is then delivered frozen by the donor, typically to one of more than 40 milk drop-off stations in North Texas.
“Usually it’s a clinic or community hospital,” Trotter says. “They have a freezer designated for us and we pay for that freezer.”
The milk is picked up in a MMBNT van or via a courier or by FedEx. Then the milk processing begins. It’s thawed, bottled and pasteurized, then sent to an outside lab to make sure it’s bacteria-free.
The milk is also analyzed for its calorie count because that’s how the hospitals order it, depending on the needs of their premature babies. Milk from different mothers may also be mixed together to achieve prescribed calorie counts.
“We have an analyzer that gives us that info and can figure an algorithm on how to mix milk,” Trotter says. “The milk can also be traced back to the mom if we need to.”
While around 80 percent of donated milk goes to neonatal units across North Texas, the remaining amount serves outpatient babies who also have a medical need for the milk. A small percentage is provided to babies in newborn nurseries whose mothers are having trouble with milk production, but want to breastfeed.
"Our new home is so much more than a bigger building,” says Trotter. “The facility represents tremendous capacity to help more babies, do more research, and expand community services."
For more information about donation and other services, visit the organization's website.