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June 17, 2014

Mothers’ Milk & Life’s Blood

Blood center becomes dropoff point for mothers to donate breast milk

TERRE HAUTE — A new partnership now makes sure that fragile infants have more access to both donated blood and donated human milk.

The Indiana Mothers’ Milk Bank and Indiana Blood Center announced their collaboration Tuesday at the blood center’s Terre Haute location, where members of the Breastfeeding Coalition of the Wabash Valley and the Le Leche League gathered to support the partnership.

“We both provide a life-saving component for people in need,” said Amy Mason, ICB donor center specialist, noting that the blood center has existed for more than 60 years. “We see the Indiana Mothers’ Milk Bank as a younger version of ourselves.”

Premature infants in hospital neonatal intensive care units are the primary recipients of pasteurized donor human milk, which is dispensed by prescription or hospital order when the mothers’ own milk is not available.

Several women in the Wabash Valley already participate in the IMMB. Donor Jessie Uchytil said the convenience of having a local milk depot will mean that she does not have to store up large quantities of expressed milk in her freezer, than pack it in dry ice and ship it to a milk depot.

Instead, she can take her donations in a cooler to the blood center, where it can be picked up and transported to the pasteurization facility.

“It takes a lot of dedication and it can be time consuming,” said Uchytil, who has donated 3,000 ounces of mother’s milk.

Janice O’Rourke, the milk bank’s executive director, said the Terre Haute location is the 11th mothers’ milk depot in the state, and eight new drop-off locations are being opened around the state through the partnership. The Midwest has 36 milk depots located across five states.

“It all comes from moms who are happy and willing to donate their milk through us,” O’Rourke said.

Each donor must go through a screening process, which includes a blood test and medical and lifestyle history. All approved milk donors are also eligible to donate blood through the blood center once they are six weeks postpartum, but blood donation is not required.

“The process of milk donation and blood donation is actually very similar,” said Carissa Hawkins of the IMMB. “It’s a nonprofit-to-nonprofit connection. It just makes sense for us to partner and bring life-saving donations to as many infants as we can.”

Devon Kinne of the breastfeeding coalition said that she became a donor after her infant son received donor milk in the NICU. She said the local Le Leche League serves about 20 women per month, and she feels the number of donors will increase because of the new milk depot.

“The Wabash Valley is definitely on the upswing in support of breastfeeding,” she said.

Lactation consultant Rachael Spencer said that one of the best ways to support breastfeeding for mothers and infants is through encouragement. A mother of seven children herself, Spencer said the Terre Haute community has an active breastfeeding support system.


Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or


• A donor must be a nonsmoker in good general health, be willing to have a blood test and be willing to donate 100 ounces of mother’s milk.

• Anyone wanting more information can go online to, or call donor mothers’ coordinator Lauren Duncan at 317-536-1670.

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