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Shortage of infant formula: Willowbrook Methodist Hospital in Houston is a donated breast milk collection site

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – As grocery stores run out of infant formula due to the shortage, parents are growing increasingly frustrated as the need for this product for their babies grows ever more pressing.

The shortage of infant formula has been particularly difficult for new mothers like Blanca Torres, who gave birth to baby girl Estella three months ago.

Torres said Estella’s first meal was a breastmilk donation because she couldn’t produce her milk right away.

“It took three or four days to produce milk,” Torres said. “It was a worry because I didn’t know if I would be able to produce or not. Or if I was going to fill it as a mother.”

Torres said she was grateful for the breast milk donated to her baby by The Mothers’ Make Bank of Austin (MMBA), a non-profit organization.

Willowbrook Methodist Hospital in Houston has partnered with the MMBA to provide donated breast milk to infants who cannot get these much-needed nutrients from their mothers.

The demand for donated breast milk, especially in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), is increasing.

The hospital in northwest Houston will provide breastfeeding mothers with a safe place to drop off their breast milk donations.

Tammy Sullivan, NICU manager at Willowbrook Methodist Hospital in Houston, says they collect donated breast milk from approved donors.

“They had a written interview, a phone interview,” Sullivan said. “They’ve had their blood drawn and exchanged medical records, so they’re being checked to make sure the milk is safe.”

To become a donor, Sullivan said mothers who breastfeed babies under the age of one are eligible for a free screening.

“They bring their milk to the hospital, and then a courier picks it up and takes it to the MMBA, and they process it,” Sullivan said. “We can order it again. They ship it via FedEx. It’s completely frozen and we have a special freezer that we keep inside to keep it super cold and ready to go when we need it.”

Non-profit milk banks like the MMBA ensure that donated breast milk is safe and available to infants who need it most.

Distributed pasteurized breast milk is transformed to meet the specific needs of fragile and sick babies.

Houston Methodist Willowbrook has approximately 4,000 infant deliveries per year, with an average of 400 babies treated in the NICU each year.

The hospital is equipped to handle high-risk pregnancies as a level three NICU.

According to the MMBA’s website, the nonprofit has 21 years of saving babies. It is one of the largest suppliers of donor milk to hospitals in Texas and 22 states.

Organizers say the milk bank is growing and meeting the needs of babies thanks to women committed to donating milk and raising awareness of the life-saving properties of breast milk, especially for the most vulnerable population.

There have been 7.5 million ounces donated since 1999 and 800,000 ounces sent to babies in 2020.

Sullivan says they need women to donate their breast milk to those unable to produce milk to feed their babies.

If you would like more information about donations, contact Mothers Milk Bank of Austin at 512-494-0800 or Mother’s Milk Bank of Austin.

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