From the gently rolling hills of stately horse farms to the waving bluegrass that graced it with its nickname, Kentucky is home to untold natural beauty. But it’s also home to a generous and gracious population imbued with the spirit of giving.
In that same spirit, The Milk Bank is thrilled to announce that we have DOUBLED Milk Depots across Kentucky to a total of 12, making it easy and convenient for more people to donate their surplus breast milk.
Organizations rally to make milk donation convenient for Kentuckians
It is also the beginning of a fruitful partnership with the Kentucky Blood Center – home to four new locations in Lexington and Louisville. Mandy Brajuha, Vice President of External Relations says the parallels between the work done by the Blood Center, and the work done by The Milk Bank, made it an easy decision. “It’s just the right thing to do,” she says. “And it was easy for us. We’re already used to shipping product, checking temperatures on freezers and making sure products are treated and handled the right way. It made sense for us, mission to mission.”
Brajuha also believes the partnership will be beneficial for the Blood Center, in reminding breastfeeding parents that once their children have transitioned from breast milk, they are again able to donate blood. Both organizations provide life-giving support to those in need, and both make it incredibly easy for donors to give. “It’s something you can contribute and support without needing to write a check,” Brajuha says.
And once the new depots are open, Brajuha has her sights set on awareness and expansion. “I hope that by this partnership, and our network across the state, it helps other people realize this is an opportunity. I think there are so many people who are breastfeeding, who don’t know that there’s an option to donate their breast milk, and that there’s an important use for that. The goal right now is to get Lexington and Louisville up and running, then we hope to roll it to two or more rural centers.”
Prematurity in Kentucky
From a donor’s perspective, giving milk is, in many ways, giving life. Breast milk provides the optimal nutrition for newborns and infants, and is even more critically important in the case of preterm birth.
For Shemika Whiteside, her own preterm labor ended in a devastating loss, but it was one she transformed into a lifesaving gift. As a recent college graduate, Whiteside had found a dream job — right around the same time she found out she was pregnant. When the dream job didn’t pay enough to cover her bills and maternal care, Whiteside discovered herself on the brink of homelessness. She found a maternity home that provided the basics, like a roof over her head, but failed to connect her with additional resources and support.
At six months’ gestation, Whiteside knew something was wrong, and went to the hospital. “Ultimately, when I went in there,” she says, “I wasn’t heard. I was telling them it was a crisis.” And it was. Whiteside’s infant daughter, Zora, lived just three days.
Baby Zora has a memorial leaf here, to recognize the gift of milk made in her memory.
Whiteside was left to deal with the trauma of going “back to normal,” though life felt anything but. She learned about breast milk donation and became part of a special group of milk donors who donate milk after the loss of a baby. After a reminder that her donation had helped to turn a tragedy into something beautiful, Whiteside realized she had more gifts to give, she went on to launch Zora’s Cradle, a Louisville nonprofit that supports pre- and post-natal mothers with housing and wrap around services.
As the infant and maternal mortality rates climb among minority and underserved populations, Whiteside says this is because many organizations don’t build connections to provide the resources new mothers need. “Most of the women that we serve,” she says, “don’t have access to WIC and all the basics because they don’t have stable housing. They can’t get to appointments because they don’t have transportation. But agencies are often siloed. They offer all these services, but they don’t connect with other agencies to raise awareness.”
how breastfeeding parents can help
Whiteside’s experience comes full-circle as Zora’s Cradle becomes Jefferson County’s newest donation drop-off spot and pasteurized donor milk pick-up site for The Milk Bank. Whiteside encourages other mothers to donate, as she did, and feel the same sense of gratification. “I just want to make sure that donors are aware they’re doing this to help other women in a time of crisis, as well as changing lives.”
The demand for safe human milk from The Milk Bank has dramatically increased, additional milk donors are needed to meet the demand. If you’re ready to get started now, get pre-screened online or call 317-536-1670, and help more babies celebrate a first birthday!