MMBNE Milestone

The dream you dream alone is only a dream.

A dream you dream together is reality. – John Lennon

Ten years ago, on March 14, 2006, a small group of five gathered to discuss a crazy idea of establishing a milk bank in Boston, the city where milk banking was born nearly 100 years prior. Thus began an extraordinary community journey to establish the Mothers’ Milk Bank of New England, now Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, to reflect better the geographic area we serve.

With each meeting, interest, attendance, and our task lists grew. Each of our founders has his or her own story and reason for the passion and dedication it has taken to establish MMBNE and see it flourish: we were NICU nurses and lactation consultants who had seen the power of human milk for our tiny fragile charges; moms who had breastfed our own babies, and in some cases, donated our milk to others in need; a biologist who had devoted his career to unlocking the secrets of human milk. Of the core group at our first meetings, almost all are still involved with the milk bank.

The small community that fit around my dining room table in 2006 has expanded to include a staff of 14, a Board of 10, Medical and Research Boards of 18, 20+ volunteers in and out of our office, students interns, 10 depots throughout our region, 3,000 donors of precious milk, nurses, lactation consultants, perinatal professionals, physicians, dieticians, over 70 hospitals, 130+ families who have received milk from us, and countless people touched by our cause who spread the word in their communities.

We opened our doors in 2008 in a 1,100 square foot classroom in a school building that had been turned into a cultural center, with a few freezers and a tiny milk processing lab built into what had once been an arts and crafts pantry. We now operate in a 5,000 square foot office and lab, keep our milk in four large commercial freezers and two chest freezers, pasteurize it in three shaking water baths, and clean our supplies in two sterilizing dishwashers.

For a while, as we were starting up—building out our lab, getting our procedures, protocols, and funding in order—we distributed, in our area, pasteurized milk from Mothers’ Milk Bank of Ohio. We received our HMBANA certification and began processing and dispensing our own milk in August 2011, 5-1/2 years after our first meeting.

In 2012, we completed our NY Department of Health Tissue Banking License, allowing us to receive milk from and send milk to NY donors and hospitals, providing our lifesaving service to more fragile babies in need.

Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast continues to grow. In addition to providing donor human milk, MMBNE is an integral part of breastfeeding support through partnerships with WIC, breastfeeding coalitions, and over 70 hospitals throughout our region.

As if in honor of this milestone, we recently pasteurized our 1,500th batch of milk and screened our 3,000th donor.

All of this is possible because of the passion, dedication, time, blood, sweat, and tears of so many. Congratulations to all of us in our growing community on the important work that we do every day.

In March, we marked the 10th anniversary of our beginning—our gestation. August 2021 will mark 10 years since our birth as a full-fledged milk bank. Please share your memories, photos, and stories for us to post on our Facebook page.

Naomi and Karen Sussman-Karten were two of the attendees at the first milk bank organizing meeting 10 years ago.