2020 was a year full of growth and flexibility at Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast—growth as we continued to supply lifesaving donor milk, and flexibility as we adjusted to changing protocols in a global pandemic. We dispensed 522,137 ounces of milk to babies in need, which is 67,322 more ounces than our 2019 total, and we celebrated the pasteurization of batch number 6,000. That is a lot of milk, especially in such challenging times! We thank all our milk donors, milk recipients, hospitals, and community partners who stayed flexible with us during this period.
Staff and volunteers: growth and flexibility
Not long after the start of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Our amazing staff—already trained in the safety and sanitation protocols required to handle and process donor milk—adjusted quickly and frequently to additional precautions as research emerged about the virus. The on-site staff members look forward to a time in the future when they can see their now-remote colleagues more frequently, and especially see the smiling faces of visiting donor and recipient families peering through the glass as the lab technicians process milk.
Our volunteers continue to inspire us with their dedication. Though we weren’t able to host our usual volunteer groups during the pandemic, a number of our loyal volunteers took projects home, worked remotely, or came in to help individually. Our most exciting volunteer endeavor occurred during World Breastfeeding Week, when our Bikers for Babies rescued nearly 1,000 ounces of milk from our depot at ProHealth Physicians in Glastonbury, CT, during a power outage caused by Tropical Storm Isaias. Together our volunteers have dedicated over 436 hours, and the Bikers for Babies program completed seven rides, transporting 3,547 ounces of donor milk. Our wonderful volunteers are a vital part of our milk bank family.
Expanding access to milk
Growth and flexibility also characterize our work dispensing milk, as we get more milk to babies and make receiving and donating it easier. In 2020, we opened three new depots in three states—at Vermont Donor Milk Center, ProHealth Physicians – Glastonbury Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, and Women’s Health Resource Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. The Vermont and New Hampshire sites also serve as donor milk dispensaries, increasing access to donor milk in the community. Next year, we intend to open more depots and dispensaries so that more families can drop off and pick up milk with ease.
To make donor milk more equitable, our milk bank continues to streamline our Special Assistance Program (SAP). The price of donor milk should not prevent a family from getting the donor milk their baby needs. Equitable access to donor milk is a core value of all nonprofit milk banks accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.
Our staff worked together with community members, breastfeeding advocates, healthcare providers, and legislators on legislative efforts toward donor milk coverage in several states, including Connecticut, Maine, and Massachusetts. Abrupt changes to legislative business disrupted progress on some bills, but the work continues in the current year.
Outpouring of milk from generous donors
During the pandemic, altruistic milk donors eager to “share the health” responded with an unprecedented outpouring of milk. Our Donor Intake Coordinators have been screening new donors every day. In 2020, they approved 882 new donors, up from 783 the prior year, and surpassing 8,000 donors total since our founding. They continue to screen in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Crioulo (Cape Verdean Creole).
We are looking forward to an even better year in 2021. Thank you to all of our donors, recipients, staff members, board members, and milk bank friends who allow us to help more babies in need each year. We truly appreciate your commitment to our mission.