For many new parents, the most precious commodity on Earth isn't diapers or even a good night's sleep. It's milk from mom.
So when new moms are left with a freezer full of milk when their baby is done nursing, they don't want it to go to waste. That’s where the McLean County Human Milk Depot comes in.
The Human Milk Depot launched in February, and it’s already brought in 3,800 ounces of donated milk from eight donors. The program is part of the Mothers Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes, which supplies milk to babies in need across Illinois and Wisconsin.
“There really is a strong interest in donating human milk. A lot of people have either known someone who’s given birth to a (premature baby), or known a critically ill child who has benefited from donated human milk. Those people get on board, and they want to something for the cause,” said Tammy Brooks, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program coordinator for the McLean County Health Department, who oversees the milk depot.
“If you’ve got those local people you’re talking with and working with, it makes it a lot easier. There’s potential for a lot more donors to participate,” Brooks said.
Breanna Hickey was one of the program’s first donors. She’s also one of the WIC nurses at the McLean County Health Department.
Hickey had a lot of extra milk in her freezer and didn’t want it to go to waste.
“It was a great opportunity,” Hickey said. “It made it a lot easier to get the process started, knowing that I could just donate it here locally and not have to worry about the logistics of shipping and figuring out the process on my own.”
Milk donated locally is likely to be used by neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in Illinois or Wisconsin, whenever it’s requested by the Mothers Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes. It’s most useful for babies born prematurely—so early that the mother’s body is not yet ready to produce milk, Brooks said.
“It’s a necessity. The preemies need it, and they need it now,” she said.
Those interest in donating to the McLean County Human Milk Depot can call (847) 262-5134 to get started. The Mothers Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes oversees the screening process.
You can also listen to GLT's full interview with the McLean County Human Milk Depot team:
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.