Hospital collects donated breast milk for mothers who can't nurse.
Throughout her pregnancy, Wendy Sears of Scotland, Connecticut, planned to breast-feed her twin baby girls when they were born, but the babies arrived nearly two months early and Wendy's milk didn't come quite as quickly.
Because of a program at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, the twins are being fed breast milk. It just does not come from their mother.
The hospital provides donated breast milk to babies who were born before 32 weeks or weigh less than 4 pounds when their mother can't provide it, for whatever reason.
"In the beginning, I had a hard time really making enough just for one, much less for both," she said.
This program is a benefit because Sears recognizes the benefits of breast milk.
"Every study you could ever read suggests that breast-feeding gives them immunity for so many different things," Sears said. "It helps them in so many ways. There's really no reason not to."
The donor milk is pasteurized to eliminate any chance it carries disease.
"The donors are screened the same way as someone who would be donating blood or donating an organ. So they're screened for all the viruses and lifestyle issues and drug use and things that would make you worry about using this milk," said Dr. Kathleen Marinelli, a neonatologist at the medical center, and the medical director of the New England Breast Milk Bank outside of Boston.
Sick and premature babies are the priority to receive donations, Marinelli said.
"It helps mature their GI tract. It has immune factors in it. It has live cells in it. It has all types of things that help them mature and develop in ways they otherwise wouldn't have having come out of mom's womb early," she said.
Cate Vallone, of Hartford, is another new mom but she's not receiving donated breast milk. She's donating it.
Her baby was allergic to something in her diet, so she couldn't use the 70 ounces of milk she had frozen, so she offered to share her supply.
"One of my girlfriends had a baby just a few weeks after I did and she was breast feeding also and not making quite enough milk," said Vallone.
It might seem odd to some. but this is just donating something someone else needs.
"On one hand, I guess it could seem weird if you hadn't done it before. But there's lots of times we share some of ourselves with another person. There's donating blood and stuff so I didn't' see how this was too different from that," said Vallone.
For the health of her babies, Wendy Sears is thankful for other moms like Cate Vallone.
"I think it's a fantastic program," she said.