NEWTONVILLE, Mass. — Cynthia Miller pumped breast milk for her daughter last year while the newborn struggled to survive in a Boston neonatal intensive care unit.
But when baby Vivian lost her battle, Miller knew other mothers from the hospital who still wanted breast milk for their own preemies’ fights.
Mothers who, unlike Miller, weren’t able to make their own milk.
With that in mind, Miller and her husband donated her frozen milk reserves to a nonprofit that opened last August in Newtonville.
Now a year into operation, officials at Mothers’ Milk Bank of New England said it’s the only facility of its sort in the region and one of only a dozen similar operations in North America.
“We were happy we could do that,” Miller, a 38-year-old Newton resident, said of their donation. “... Had we been in a similar situation, where we couldn’t provide, we would have turned to the milk bank.”
The milk bank recently expanded its operation to include a drop-off point at a parenting center in Hanover, Mass., about 20 miles south of Boston.
Bank officials are hoping the depot will make it more convenient for other mothers with breast milk reserves to make donations. The depot is a freezer unit inside Isis Parenting, a private business that’s donating space for the ongoing collection effort.
In nearby South Weymouth, Mass., South Shore Hospital started using milk bank donations a year ago to feed preemie patients who are weaning off intravenous nutrition.
Physician John Fiascone, the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit medical director, said preemies digest breast milk more easily and it helps protect them against necrotizing entercolitis, an intestinal infection that can be deadly.
Fiascone said mothers who deliver pre-term babies are often sick themselves and can’t produce breast milk, while some other mothers can’t keep up with the needs of their infants. The doctor said hospital officials also had concerns about parents turning to a growing black market where unscreened donors put their breast milk up for