A Year of Matchmaking at the Guilford Depot

Year of Matchmaking photo

By Jan Ferraro, BS, CCE, CLC

We could not ask for a more energetic, dedicated advocate of milk donation than Jan Ferraro, who manages our depot in Guilford, CT. On Valentine’s Day, Jan held a milk drive to celebrate the depot’s first anniversary; you can read the news coverage in the Shoreline Times. We asked her to share some reflections on her first year running a depot.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match,
Find me a find, catch me a catch.
Matchmaker, Matchmaker, look through your book,
And make me a perfect match.
From Fiddler on the Roof
That’s me, a matchmaker.

It actually started out in the simplest of ways:  I am a copycat. Acelleron Maternal Health & Wellness in North Andover, MA, opened up a milk depot, and I wanted one, too. I figured it was a pretty good partnership. Acelleron Medical Products provides breast pumps and breastfeeding support for moms all over Connecticut. Those moms make milk, those moms sometimes have excess milk, and those moms call Acelleron asking what to do with it.  The milk bank needs milk and NICUs need milk. I realized that I could be the matchmaker between the moms with extra and the ones in need.

One of the great things about working for Acelleron is that if you have a worthwhile project and you tell them, they stand behind you 100%. And they did: freezer and lock were purchased, our grand opening was planned, and how grand it was! All the local television networks were invited and they all came—ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. Then the local paper and NPR did stories as well. The breastfeeding community showed up in full force—moms, IBCLCs, CLCs, peer counselors, WIC counselors, support groups, pediatricians, midwives, and obstetricians. The response was overwhelming.

Emails were coming in at a rapid pace from potential donors. The milk bank phones were ringing off the hook. Hospitals that were not currently using donor milk started to seek information on how to get it into their facilities. One situation was especially close to my heart because one of the nurses who spearheaded the project for a Nurse Residency Program was my daughter Jacquelyn (woot, woot, that’s my girl!).

So many things have struck me in this amazing year. Here are just a few:

  • First, the babies! Until you have seen a preemie, you cannot really imagine just how tiny they can be. Once you see them, all you want to do is assist. The pictures and the success stories are incredible. I have spoken to moms whose babies received the donated milk. They told me stories of how their babies thrived because of this liquid gold. Lives were saved.
  • Next, the donors! Boy, do they come from all walks of life! Our first donor, Amy, is my cousin. She had just had her second baby, I was telling her about the bank, and she blurted out that she wanted to donate. Here she was with a new baby, and she was pumping away to donate. With all the press coverage, I cannot tell you how many times she had video and pictures taken of her with her breasts out (she did her job normalizing breastfeeding!). And donor Jacqui, 2,400+ ounces with her manual pump! Then there was the NICU nurse who knew firsthand the value. And the mom who said that when she had so much milk that she couldn’t fit ice cream in the freezer, she knew it was time to donate. There were so many! I obviously couldn’t do it without them.
  • The milk bank staff—they know how to take care of the finest of details, and they do it with a smile. I called them countless times in the beginning with questions and they never failed to make the process simple. My donors had the same experience. Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast made the process seamless!

So here we are just over one year later and holding strong. Well over 5,500 ounces have come through this depot. New donors continue to sign up and the milk flows. It’s a privilege to be a part of this wonderful process.

It is sometimes easy to get overwhelmed with the minutiae of everyday life. It’s a rat race and we may start to wonder is there any good left in this world. Well, I am here to tell you there is.  I see it in every donation, from the donor to the recipient. I am the matchmaker and I am making the perfect match.