Maine’s donor-milk program fills state-wide need

Woman with long hair holding her baby close to her chest

Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center saw a need in its community — and the community, in turn, stepped up to help.

In June, the health system partnered with Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast to open a donor milk depot in Bangor, Maine, bringing the number of milk banks in Maine to seven. A milk bank relies on donations from nursing mothers who produce more milk than their babies need. The donated milk is tested, pasteurized and then given to families who don’t have access to breast milk. Breast milk is of significant benefit to preterm infants, helping them ward off infections and build strong immune systems, which ultimately leads to shorter hospital stays.

Graham’s story is part of a citywide public awareness campaign launched by NYC Health + Hospitals to get all New Yorkers vaccinated. New York City and other areas across the U.S. are experiencing surges in COVID-19 cases due to the BA.5 variant, which is extremely infectious.

During the 2022 shortage of baby formula in the U.S., milk banks saw a surge in requests from parents who needed supplemental food for their children. Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast serves hospitals that request milk for infants in neonatal intensive care units, as well as for outpatients, though the latter requires a prescription from a doctor.

“We exist to help babies thrive and are dedicated to stewarding safe, compassionate connections between families who have an abundance of milk and those with need,” said Deborah Youngblood , executive director of Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast. “We are working hard to grow as demand increases, and this partnership with Northern Light is a wonderful way for us to continue to serve the Maine community,” she added.

Resources on the Role of Hospitals