An agency that is known for providing life-giving blood donations is branching out to help newborns struggling for life in neonatal units.
Columbus’ Indiana Blood Center is part of a new partnership with the Indiana Mother’s Milk Bank, an effort to expand donations sites for breast milk across the state.
The donated human milk, which is pasteurized in Indianapolis, is used to nourish premature infants recovering in hospital neonatal intensive care units around the country.
The donated milk is obtained through a doctor’s order when the mother’s own milk is not available.
The partnership, which began June 16, allows seven IBC branch locations — including the one in Columbus — to screen potential milk donors and accept donations.
The blood center had ribbon-cutting ceremonies at its Terre Haute, Fishers and Columbus locations last week.
The Columbus location received its first milk donation during the ceremony, from Amanda Virostko, a Bartholomew County resident and member of the Bartholomew County Breast Feeding Coalition.
“It makes it more convenient for moms to drop off their milk,” Virostko said about the Columbus donation option. “It’s just easier to stop by and drop the milk off as opposed to having to box it up in a Styrofoam cooler and mail it or drive to Bloomington to drop it off.”
Prior to the partnership with the Indiana Blood Center, women who wished to donate breast milk, but could not make the trip to the Milk Bank’s Indianapolis location, had to freeze the milk and ship it there in coolers.
“This streamlines the process and makes it more efficient,” said Ashley Grider, donor center specialist at blood center’s Columbus location.
The Columbus branch will freeze milk donations and store them at negative 5 degrees Celsius until they are shipped, along with blood donations, to Indianapolis, Grider said. Donations from this area will be sent to the Indiana Mother’s Milk Bank headquarters once a month, she added.
When it arrives at the pasteurization center, the milk from three to five donors is combined into batches, defrosted, pooled, bottled, tested and sent to an independent testing facility for further examination.
Because the screening process to donate breast milk includes a blood test, women who are cleared to donate milk and receive their donation identification will also be able to become blood donors when they are six weeks postpartum.
Carissa Hawkins, communication coordinator at the Indiana Mother’s Milk Bank, said the process of milk donation and blood donation is actually very similar.
“It’s a nonprofit-to-nonprofit connection. It just makes sense for us to partner and bring life-saving donations to as many infants as we can.”