By Kathy L. Mason, BSN, RNC-NIC, IBCLC
Lactation Consultant
Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health

November 16, 2017

Have you had a baby in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or Special Care Nursery?  Then you may be aware of The Milk Bank located here in Indianapolis and the important service it provides.

The Milk Bank is a Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) regulated milk bank and is located at 5060 E. 62nd Street.  It provides pasteurized donor human milk to hospitals and outpatients throughout the United States.  Being able to obtain safe donor milk for premature and ill infants at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health is of utmost importance.

A mother’s own milk is best but if a baby cannot receive its own mother’s milk, or if a mother is unable to provide milk for her baby, donor human milk is recommended as the next best option.  Having a baby hospitalized in a NICU or special care nursery creates issues that may make it more difficult for a mother to provide enough milk for her baby.  Some mothers are unable to provide milk due to other medical conditions of their own. 

Babies born prematurely or sick have immature or compromised immune systems and are at increased risk for feeding intolerance.  For premature babies, using mother’s own milk instead of formula can decrease the risk of a serious infection that can occur in the intestines called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Donor human milk has also been associated with a decreased risk of NEC when compared to formula. In the Riley Hospital for Children NICU, most babies born weighing less than 1500 grams (about 3 pounds) receive mother’s own milk or donor human milk for at least the first two weeks of life.

Having a HMBANA regulated milk bank allows hospitals like Riley Hospital to obtain safe human milk for the most fragile infants.   It is important for donated human milk to be processed in a standard and safe way as certain diseases such as HIV can possibly be transmitted through human milk.  Mothers are relieved and reassured to know that the donated milk their baby is receiving is from volunteer donors whose health histories have been screened, and that the milk has been pasteurized.