“Hopefully, mothers who need to get breast milk for their children won’t have to turn to eBay or Craigslist or a friend of a friend of a friend. Because medically, it’s very dangerous,” Fiascone said. “... Now we worry a lot less about that because the donor just brings milk to the milk bank.”
Milk bank executive director Naomi Bar-Yam said the facility screens potential donor mothers, testing for disease and querying them in a manner similar to blood donation screening before accepting their breast milk. After donations come in, the milk also undergoes a pasteurization process to kill any pathogens. The lab is a closet-size room in an old school that now operates as a cultural center.
The nonprofit charges $4.50 an ounce for milk, sending it to about a dozen New England hospitals and parents who opt to buy breast milk for their babies.
While donors give milk for free, Bar-Yam said the money goes toward screening donors, collecting donations, and processing and distributing the milk.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate milk banking but recognizes the Human Milk Banking Association of North America as an organization that sets safety guidelines for the operation of member facilities that include the Newtonville nonprofit.
A few states have license requirements for human milk banking, and Bar-Yam said the Newtonville facility just got a license that allows it to send donations to recipients in New York.
Besides preemies, the bank’s milk also has gone to the babies of moms who can’t produce milk after mastectomies and parents who had children through surrogate births.
Donor Mindy Lawless, from Worcester, Mass., said knowing she’s helping her 6-month-old daughter along with other children by pumping her breast milk makes the effort worth it.