Gratitude. November is a month of reflection. Perhaps it’s the common tradition to share what you are grateful for over the Thanksgiving holiday. Perhaps it’s the colder, shorter days that make us start to cozy up inside and take stock. Here at the milk bank, I feel grateful every day.  

I’m closing in on my one-year anniversary of joining the milk bank as a new leader, taking over from a fiercely committed founder, Naomi Bar-Yam. Naomi started this milk bank literally at her kitchen table in 2006. And she grew the milk bank to the successful entity it is today. We serve over 100 hospitals throughout the northeast and in 2021 we distributed over 600,000 ounces of donor milk. That is approximately 1.5 million feedings for pre-term babies. My gratitude to Naomi for her vision and fortitude is boundless and she continues to be a trusted advisor today. 

We can’t provide pasteurized, lifesaving donor milk without the selfless support of mothers who generously donate their excess milk. Moms are some of the busiest people. Life often feels upside down when you are caring for little ones and also juggling all the other priorities in your life. It would be easier not to donate milk. One less thing to do. But these incredible women embody the sentiment, “it takes a village.” They understand that for medically fragile babies, donor milk is essential. And that mothers of medically vulnerable babies often face obstacles to developing a milk supply, especially early on. And so, these mothers literally give of themselves so that other babies can grow and thrive. 

I am grateful for everyone who is part of our milk bank community, who work together for a shared purpose of ensuring that our milk is safe and available for those who need it the most. We have an incredible staff here: knowledgeable, and compassionate milk donor intake coordinators who work to make milk donation as seamless as possible; pasteurization lab techs who focus on safety and compliance to process milk; our distribution team who ensures that our product gets where it’s going with the speed required both of something perishable and something needed right away; and our administrative and operations team who make sure everything is running smoothly. We also have committed members of our board of directors, committee members, clinical advisors, hospital partners and so many more. These advisors share their expertise and energy to make sure that today our organization is strong and that plans for tomorrow are ambitious, recognizing a growing need for babies and families. And of course, our financial contributors are key to our success. As a nonprofit we need generous donations to keep the milk flowing to our babies. 

Some people talk about themselves as being blessed. But I prefer the word gratitude. To me, blessed feels like I was chosen. But gratitude feels like I’m recognizing fortunate gifts. Gifts from people who believe in our mission and who are willing to do the work to make our vision of shared health a reality. This year as I reflect, my gratitude to all of those who make this work possible is vast. Thank you to all of you who care enough about babies to be here as a vital part of our milk bank community.  

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