Ten years at the milk bank – an exciting ride . . .
If you have donated milk to Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast any time in the last decade, there’s a good chance you’ve spoken with the wonderful Morgan Kennedy Henderson. We were lucky enough to draw her into the fold in 2013 from her career as a childbirth and breastfeeding educator. This background, her own parenting experience, and a deep commitment to learning everything she could about lactation and health, made her an important contributor and ultimately a leader here at the milk bank.
Ten years is a long time for our milk bank, which was accredited in 2011. Morgan supported and guided us through many changes, complexities, and improvements. When she started, there were just a few hundred generous moms donating their milk. Now there have been more than 10,000. Naturally, that growth required the milk donor screening and engagement team to grow and evolve. Throw in a global pandemic, a formula shortage, and your everyday surprises, and this has been an exciting – if at times challenging – ride.
What stands out to me is the consistent generosity of our milk donors . . .
What makes this all worth it? In Morgan’s words, “What stands out to me is the consistent generosity of our milk donors. We make our screenings as easy and efficient as possible, but they still take commitment. It’s not easy being a new mother, much less trying to fit in a blood draw around everything else.”
This empathy for new parents is a key to Morgan’s impact here. She truly understands and is dedicated to every mom she works with. She knows that the gift of breastmilk is truly the gift of health for a newborn. It may be the gift of life. She explains, “Many of our milk donors have babies who received donor milk early. They then complete the circle of giving by sharing their milk if and when they can. Others are moms with extra milk and a generous spirit. Some are mothers who experienced the unimaginable loss of a baby. They choose to honor their child by donating life-giving milk in their baby’s memory. It has been my honor to facilitate all these donations.”
It has been my privilege to work with and learn from Morgan during my time here. Through her I have been introduced to many incredible families who commit themselves to helping another baby. I’m awed by how she has channeled so much milk from generous donors to our most fragile babies. More often than not, these babies are in neonatal intensive care units. They need human milk to protect their health and help them one day go home with their families. What a legacy.
(Re)introducing Venette . . .
Morgan is a tough act to follow but if anyone can do it, it’s our very own Venette Maurice. Taking over as the Director of Donor screening and Engagement, Venette joined the milk bank last year. She is trained as a birth doula and has dedicated her career to supporting mothers and babies. Who better to work with our families donating milk? A Certified Breastfeeding Specialist she is committed to ensuring that our welcoming culture also includes the strictest adherence to health and safety standards.
She is thrilled to mentor her team and work with the entire organization to help us grow so we can meet the increasing demand for donor milk. A demand spurred by science which continues to demonstrate the significant health outcomes of a human milk diet for all babies – especially those with medical complexities.
A heartfelt thank you . . .
Our milk donors are literally the life blood of this organization. We exist because babies need us to exist. And we can’t serve and support those babies without the special community of families who understand the fragility of life. Families who commit themselves to caring for little ones who are not bonded by blood but need them just as much as those who are.
Thank you, Morgan, for all you have done to care for families and babies. Thank you, Venette, for stepping up to carry on and grow this work to even greater heights. And thank you, parents, for joining us in an effort to help make milestones for as many babies as possible. Every little one deserves a chance to leave the NICU. A chance to smile that first smile and coo those first words.
We may have said it before but we love hearing from you. Have a message for a team member? Want to see your little one on the ‘gram? Ready to share your story with a like minded and supportive community? Simply shoot us an email at email@example.com or find us on social media. Last but not least, our monthly newsletters are a great way to stay up to date.
Photo at top by Mira Whiting