May 2011

Letter from the Director
MMBNE is moving forward by leaps and bounds on so many fronts. Thanks to our newsletter crew, Tsila Sloane, Heather Greene, and Caroline Felix, our newsletter is moving from twice a year to three times a year, to keep you informed of our exciting progress and developments. We have an active Facebook page; please check us out, friend us, add your comments. Twitter is coming next.

Our annual Mother's Day Campaign is underway. Your generous donations provide essential funding for equipment, community and medical education, and the Milk Money Fund, so that we can provide donor milk to babies in need regardless of their families' financial situation.

Mark your calendars! MMBNE is holding our a benefit concert on Sunday June 5 at 2:30 pm at the Newton Cultural Center, 225 Nevada Street, Newtonville, MA 02460. Come for a tour of the milk bank, and a wonderful afternoon of music of the Nonantum Hill string quartet. We will also be presenting the third annual MMBNE Share the Health Award. We hope you will join us.

Our staff has been working very hard to put all the equipment, supplies, and paperwork in place to begin processing milk. We began screening donors in February, and we have acquired a new commercial-sized refrigerator for thawing milk and a water filtration system to keep our milk and equipment safe for premature babies. Milk processing will begin by Mother’s Day.

Congratulations to us all for reaching this milestone!

Naomi Bar-Yam Ph.D.
Executive Director

"Newton Serves" on May 15
Each year the city of Newton holds Newton Serves Day, a day to clean up and beautify our city. This year it will be held on Sunday, May 15. Since MMBNE is generously hosted in a municipal building, Newton Serves is a wonderful opportunity to give back to our community. There is work to be done inside and outside of our office: painting and clean up. But if you prefer to work outdoors, there are outdoor projects all over the city. You can come for an hour or all day. Please sign up now!


Grant from Albertson Foundation
Building a milk bank is important work and has taken the dedicated time, energy, creativity and financial resources of many people in the last five years. In our last newsletter we were pleased to be able to acknowledge the donations so many of you have made to the milk bank over the last year.

We also receive grants from foundations that help us with particular aspects of our program. We would like to thank the Landry Lewis Albertson Memorial Foundation for their generous grant of $10,000 this year for the cost of equipment.


Radio interview with MMBNE Medical Director

Dr. Kathleen Marinelli was interviewed on the subject of “The Growth of Milk Banks for American Mothers” on XM Radio station (satellite radio) ReachMD – Reaching and Teaching Medical Professionals.

Her interview is a positive and very informative overview of the phenomenon and process of milk banking and its safety, and she makes specific mention of MMBNE, of course! You can listen to it now on our website.


Music Flows as Milk Bank Grows: MMBNE Gears up for Benefit Concert, “Milk and Harmony”
MMBNE will be holding a benefit concert on Sunday, June 5. Concert attendees will enjoy chamber music played by the Nonantum Hill String Quartet, hear about the milk bank’s recent progress and upcoming plans, and enjoy refreshments, a chance to mingle, and tours of the milk bank facilities. The event will include the presentation of the Share the Health Award, MMBNE’s annual award recognizing those whose efforts have been crucial to the milk bank’s life-saving work.

“This is an exciting way to reach out to the community. It should be a fun afternoon for all,” said MMBNE Executive Director Naomi Bar-Yam. Proceeds from the concert will be used to purchase equipment for the milk bank. “We’re really looking forward to being able to purchase much-needed equipment for the lab,” said MMBNE Medical Director Dr. Kathleen Marinelli. The event will be child-friendly, with babysitting provided to enable parents to enjoy the concert.

Tickets are on sale on MMBNE’s website. They are available for $20 (students and seniors $12) until May 23, or $25 (seniors and students $15) after May 23 and at the door. Children ten and under attend free. Corporate and individual sponsorship opportunities are available. Visit www.milkbankne.org for details.

Why MMBNE Needs a Human Milk Analyzer

The funds raised at our Milk and Harmony concert on June 5 will be earmarked for a human milk analyzer for our lab. MMBNE Medical Director, Dr. Kathleen Marinelli, explains why it is so important for our work:

Neonatal doctors are concerned about how well premature babies will grow on donor human milk (DHM). Most DHM comes from the mothers of full-term babies who can be up to 12 months old, but it is fed to tiny premature infants, as small as one pound at birth. The nutritional needs of premature babies are different than those of term babies. Amazingly, the milk produced by mothers of premature babies is different than term milk. It has more calories, protein, vitamins and minerals—all things these babies need. So they may not grow on term DHM as well as they do on their own mother’s milk.

The milk mothers make can vary a great deal. Some moms make higher fat milk, or higher protein milk. If a baby is not growing well, and we know the content of the milk we have, doctors can order milk with higher protein and calories, and if we have it, we can send it to them. Then the doctors can fortify it specifically knowing what they are giving and what they need to put in it—that is called lacto-engineering. A milk analyzer allows us to measure these components in each batch of milk we pasteurize. A number of milk banks have analyzers, and the NICUs who receive their milk really appreciate knowing the DHM content.

The FDA feels that HMBANA milk banks should be working toward using analyzers—they understand the importance of the best nutrition for premature babies. Besides providing all the immune factors to these fragile babies, DHM nourishes them, providing them with the calories, protein, vitamins and minerals they need to grow. A milk analyzer will help us help neonatologists and NICUs care in the best possible way for our smallest babies. This is why it is important for MMBNE to work toward acquiring a Human Milk Analyzer.

When a Mother Donates Her Milk in Grief
Written by Kathleen Marinelli MD, IBCLC, FABM, Medical Director, MMBNE and Amy Anderson, mother of Brody, and her angels Joey Skylor and Bryson

In donor milk banking, we hear stories of mothers of healthy term babies, with large milk supplies, donating to HMBANA milk banks. They are the backbone of what we do. They donate out of the goodness of their hearts, to help other babies who are sick or fragile, whose mothers cannot provide them with enough, or any mother’s milk. We also hear the heartfelt stories of the recipient babies these milk donations help. But there is another part of donor milk banking that we don’t often hear about, and many outside of our milk banking community are not even aware of: the stories of mothers who donate in their grief.

I have been aware of this even before the conception of MMBNE. As a neonatologist I have used donor milk in my own NICU at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, CT for over twelve years now. In addition, when we have lost a baby, some of our mothers have donated their precious pumped milk to a milk bank. It is almost always preterm milk, and often very preterm milk. We all call human milk “liquid gold”. I have coined my own term for this most special of human milk, this very premature milk, because of its special nutritional and immunological properties and how rare it is for us to have as donor milk. I call it “liquid platinum”.

I became more keyed into the donation of human milk as part of the grieving process recently when I was invited to speak in Maine on “Understanding Perinatal Loss and Grieving—Is There a Role for a Donor Mother’s Milk Bank?” In January I read an amazing story on a blog, Faces of Loss. My heart went out to this woman, and so I posted a comment to her. That was the beginning of a relationship, both professional and a heartfelt friendship that has grown and resulted in the donation of an amazing amount of milk to HMBANA milk banks. When I met Amy online, no one had told her she would make milk after a 20 week stillbirth and she was trying to figure out how best to donate her milk within her community so that she would know where her baby Bryson’s milk was going, and that it had meaning. I have asked Amy to tell her and Bryson’s story, for she can tell it with the intimacy and love that only a grieving mother can:

Bryson’s legacy begins eleven years after I fell in love with my high school sweetheart. We had been married for five years and were already the proud parents of two precious children. Our firstborn, Brody, was a passionate 3½ year old boy. And our Joey Skylor was born into heaven in December 2009 for unknown reasons after 13 weeks. Our family felt prepared for the additional joys and love that a new baby would bring, so we were all overjoyed with anticipation to find out we were expecting a baby boy to arrive in March 2011. However, the Lord had special plans for our precious baby Bryson.

After a month of medical interventions to save our son from the complications of a rare condition called LUTO (Lower Urinary Tract Obstruction), Bryson went home to join Joey on heaven’s playground. October 30th, 2010 is the day I finally stopped trying to hold onto my baby boy as his body was torn from mine. It was a hello and goodbye day to my sweet baby, Bryson Anderson. I felt like time stopped when I lost my Bryson, like I will forever be pregnant with this dream that I will have to live a lifetime to see come true.

I turned to the good Lord throughout the days ahead “Dear Lord: I pray to be filled with comfort and strength to carry on with my life; to be sheltered and accompanied through my treacherous journey as a ‘Mommy of Angels’; and that my faith will give me a sense of belonging and purpose from this day forth. Amen”. The answer to this prayer quickly ensued and my purpose became obvious.

When Bryson left at 20 weeks, the doctors didn't think I would produce milk. However, my body had a grief of its own, and its tears were flowing white. When Bryson's milk arrived, it came with great intensity and initially I didn't know what to do. I was hurting horribly both physically and emotionally… this was supposed to happen when there is a baby to latch on, not when my baby had gone.

Even when I felt I'd lost everything, I still had something invaluable to give -- Bryson’s “liquid platinum” or pre-term breast milk and a chance at life for other sick infants. This realization came about when I felt, that through my heartbreak, I still had some purpose as Bryson’s Mommy. Bryson and Joey gave me the hope, courage, and strength to be able to help others even in my time of heartbreak and sadness… what a comfort to be able to turn my personal tragedy into someone else's triumph. Expressing was emotionally hard at first but then it became therapeutic, almost like an obsession, to get as much as possible to save others from this pain.

A woman who pumps breast milk is said to be “expressing milk”. For me, donating Bryson’s breast milk is the only physical way to “express my love” for my forever babies; to keep their memory alive and give meaning to their short lives, not only to me but to others as well. The other invaluable benefit would be to prevent another family from feeling the deepest, most horrific pain, grief, and despair ever imaginable, the loss of a precious child and all the hopes and dreams that accompany that new little life.

It is said that all life has a purpose. Maybe the short lives of my angel babies were to inspire their Mommy, giving hope, courage, and the strength to save the life of someone else’s baby, though I could do nothing for my own. I know that besides helping others with this gift, it is helping me too, to stay close with him, and to help me work through my heart-wrenching grief. Since Bryson’s birth five months ago, I have expressed and donated over 62 gallons of his milk. I am continuing to express and donate through my grief and I couldn’t be more proud of our achievement. This was definitely the best decision I made following Bryson’s life. Through the Milk Bank, I found some wonderfully supportive friends who have shown a great reverence in sharing Bryson’s milk and his legacy.

Bryson may have come into this world never having taken a breath, but he had every intention of being a significant part of our family and our hearts, and in that respect his life was an amazing success! Furthermore, he has made a huge impact in the lives of many even beyond our family. And while I never got to look into his eyes, nourish him at my breast, or hug and kiss him a zillion times; his life has taught me more than I ever could have imagined. He taught me to be stronger, to love deeper, and to always keep the faith. He proved that we can never take life for granted. He is a tiny hero whose legacy will forever live on in the lives of other babies who have begun to thrive due to his gift of Mommy’s milk. His life is truly one to be celebrated!

Amy lives in New England, but when I first connected to her, MMBNE was not ready to pasteurize milk. Amy and Bryson’s milk was initially pasteurized at the Ohio Mothers’ Milk Bank, our sister milk bank. Now their milk will be coming home to the Mothers’ Milk Bank of New England as we open to process milk. Their pasteurized milk has gone to a number of different NICUs including Nationwide Children’s, Sick Children’s in Canada, Cincinnati Children’s and my own unit, CT Children’s. Their milk, through Amy’s love, has gone to so many babies giving them the chance that Bryson never got. The first babies to receive Bryson and Amy’s milk at CT Children’s were a set of 30-week twins, whose mother could only express about 20 ml (2/3 of an ounce) at a time. The babies did well, and have gone home with their parents.

When a baby dies, donating milk that his mother has already expressed, or expressing milk after a baby dies, are healthy outlets for the grieving process. As Amy so eloquently expresses, helping other babies and their families is healing. As health care providers and donor milk bank affiliates, we need to understand and promote this concept for grieving mothers. Mothers who have stillbirths as early as 20 weeks may make copious milk. Many are not informed, and have no idea what to do when the milk comes, adding to their overwhelming grief and aloneness. We do these mothers a disservice if we do not tell them about the possibility of donating their milk to a milk bank as part of the grieving process. Mothers whose babies die in the hospital, and whose milk is discarded down a drain, who later find out that they could have donated it are angry that they were not given that option. Just as we talk to families about organ donation after deaths, we should not feel “funny” about talking to these moms about the possibility of expressing milk to donate. It is their choice—but can only be their choice if we give them the options. For some moms, it can make all the difference between what feels like hopelessness in a senseless death, and a heartbreaking death that has some positive purpose they can hang onto.

As a final note, Amy’s situation is extraordinary in the amount of milk she has been willing and able to sustain expressing. Each mother finds her own way in this journey of grief, and the best we can do is support her.

Mothers' Milk Bank of New England
POB 60-0091, Newtonville, MA 02460
617-527-6263
www.milkbankne.org