Staff Profile: Mary Ashley

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 10:14 pm
Mary Ashley with a large shipment of milk
Mary Ashley with a day's shipment of donor milk

It takes a village to maintain a successful organization, and at Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, that village often involves members of the community. As the Program Assistant for Community Relations, Mary Ashley is part of the team that manages those connections.

Mary Ashley’s interest in and past experiences at nonprofit organizations is what led her to MMBNT. When she first joined the staff, she spent most of her time maintaining the raw milk inventory and its related equipment, and helped with select community relations and outreach projects. As roles have shifted at MMBNT, though, Mary Ashley now is focused 100 percent in the community relations department, which is dedicated to educating the public about milk banking and increasing awareness of MMBNT’s services.

One of her primary responsibilities is to manage the volunteer program. Mary Ashley works with both groups and individuals to set up meaningful projects that help with milk bank outreach and operations. She also maintains the MMBNT blog and Twitter account. Along with the Community Relations Director, Mary Ashley plans events and develops campaigns, publications and advertising.

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Mary Ashley at a health fair
Mary Ashley often represents MMBNT at health fairs and expos.

“In my position, I’m able to use my writing and creative skills to relay the important mission of the milk bank,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed working to promote such a great cause.”

Another important aspect of community relations is outreach to potential milk donors. Since mothers only breastfeed for a limited time, the recruitment of new donors is constant. Mary Ashley works with hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics and other health care facilities to distribute materials about donor human milk and how to become a milk donor.

When there’s an opportunity to share MMBNT’s message, Mary Ashley makes the most of it. “Any chance we have to familiarize the community with MMBNT is great,” she said. “The more people know about us, the more fragile babies we can serve.”

For more information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.

Nutritional Analysis, Explained

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 6:06 pm
Lindsey runs sample in nutritional analyzer
Lab supervisor Lindsey runs a sample in the nutritional analyzer.

In the pasteurization lab at Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, accuracy and attention to detail are essential to processing donor human milk. One main step in the process is nutritional analysis, which helps staff determine how to classify the milk.

After milk is thawed and mixed, a sample of each individual donor’s milk is tested. The analyzer evaluates macronutrient content using an automated full-spectrum laser spectroscopy, which is calibrated to USDA standards. These calibrations are designed specifically for human milk. The analysis measures fat, protein, and lactose for each donor’s milk.

These measurements are used to determine how milk can be pooled. After each pool has been pasteurized, a sample is once again analyzed to determine the final macronutrient content and the calories per ounce. Hospitals use this information to ensure the babies they treat are receiving the proper calories and nutrients to grow.

Nutritional analysis provides vital information for both MMBNT and hospital staff. With this information, critically ill infants can receive the nourishment they need from donor human milk.

For more information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.

Remembering Angel Babies on Carmen's Tree

Tue, 01/17/2017 - 7:31 pm
Carmen's Tree

Moms have a variety of reasons for choosing to become milk donors. Oftentimes, a mom produces more milk than her own baby needs and decides to help others with her oversupply. However, there are many moms who donate after the loss of their own baby.

Faced with tremendous grief, these mothers often have to address the process of lactation as well. Childbirth stimulates hormones that tell your body to make milk, even after a loss. Donating this milk in memory of a child can become part of the healing process.

“It helps them cope with their loss,” Samantha Suarez, MMBNT donor coordinator, said. “They are helping other moms who are not able to provide breastmilk to their own babies.”

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Close-up of leaves on Carmen's Tree

At Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, these babies are honored on Carmen’s Tree. Located in the lobby, Carmen’s Tree is named after the baby of MMBNT’s first bereaved donor, Angela Mendoza. Each leaf on the tree bears the name and birth date of a baby whose mother donated in their memory. Additionally, each family receives a matching leaf.

“Carmen’s Tree gives donors something to look back on and honor what they’ve done by donating through their loss,” Samantha said.

Each person who passes through the doors at MMBNT sees this special memorial and is reminded of the selfless gift these mothers have given. It is a constant reminder of the strength of these donors and their ability to help others even after a tragic loss of their own. The MMBNT family is thankful for these donors and all that they do to help babies in need.

For more information about becoming a donor, click here.

2016 in Review

Tue, 01/03/2017 - 5:36 pm
757 approved donors

Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas experienced another great year of helping babies in need in 2016. Once again, the number of ounces dispensed increased from the previous year, meaning infants received more MMBNT donor milk than ever before.

In 2016, donor coordinators approved 757 milk donors. These moms learned about milk donation on social media, at hospitals, from their friends and in many other ways. Outreach to potential donors is important, as mothers are only breastfeeding for a limited time and new donors are always needed. MMBNT has a strong online presence, including the website and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, to connect with donors and potential donors in ways that are convenient for them. Additionally, hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics and depots distribute new mom packets to inform potential donors of milk donation.

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564,055 ounces dispensed

We dispensed 564,055 ounces of donor human milk in 2016. That’s more than 11,000 more ounces than in 2015, continuing the trend of increasing dispensation every year. Eighty percent of our donor milk was dispensed by physician prescription in 131 hospital NICUs, while 20 percent was prescribed to medically fragile babies at home. For the babies we serve, donor milk can be lifesaving. It is the standard of care for premature infants with severe feeding problems, intestinal malformations and life-threatening complications such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).

Additionally, we added 6 new depots in 2016. These include several added in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and even one in Georgia. These locations make milk donation convenient for donor moms who don’t live near the MMBNT office. Moms can drop off their donations to their local depots, which safely store the milk in a designated freezer until it is picked up or sent to MMBNT.

We’re thankful for a successful 2016, and are looking forward to helping even more babies in 2017!

For more information about Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.

Staff Profile: Natalie

Wed, 12/28/2016 - 8:12 pm
Natalie in the office

For Natalie, working with breastfeeding mothers and babies runs in the family. Her mother is a lactation consultant, so she knew of the benefits of breastmilk long before joining the staff at Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas. Now, she uses that knowledge and her own expertise to help others.

MMBNT’s recent growth has allowed Natalie to work in various facets of milk bank operations, but she now holds the title of Recipient Coordinator. In this role, she serves as a primary liaison between MMBNT and all outpatient donor milk recipients.

She spends much of her day updating outpatient files, which includes calling recipients’ parents and talking to them about their children’s progress and answering any questions they may have. When onboarding a new recipient, she will spend time gathering paperwork, recording medical information and introducing the recipient’s parents to the world of using donor milk.

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Milk bottle being scanned before shipment
Natalie often helps pack orders for hospitals and outpatients.

This position has become increasingly important as the recipient program has expanded. “Since I started working, the number of outpatient recipients we have has tripled,” Natalie said.

While most of her day focuses on recipients, Natalie does help when things get busy in the logging and packing rooms. She is always willing to log in recently received milk donations, or assist with packing orders to be sent to hospitals and outpatients. That is one thing she enjoys about working at MMBNT – there is never a dull moment, and there is always something to work on or help with.

The close-knit and supportive community of employees is something Natalie finds special to MMBNT. “Although we all have very different areas of expertise, we all work together for one important mission,” she said.

For more information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.

The Basics of Being a Donor

Wed, 12/07/2016 - 7:43 pm
Donor mom Shanita and MMBNT staff Courtney
Donor mom, Shanita (left) and Program Assistant, Courtney (right).

Milk donors are at the core of Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, selflessly giving their excess breastmilk to babies in need. Moms become donors for a variety of reasons; some are former NICU parents who want to help babies like their own; some have lost their babies and continue to pump breastmilk to donate in memory of their children; others are overproducers and want to do good in the community.

When a mom wants to become a donor, she starts the screening process by completing a phone interview with an MMBNT donor coordinator. This interview covers health information for both mom and baby, and determines donor eligibility. Then, she fills out a detailed medical history form. The final step in the screening process is to complete a blood draw, which MMBNT pays for. The blood draw screens for several conditions, including HIV and Hepatitis B and C.

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Huguley Hospital depot
Staff at Texas Health Huguley with donations from their depot.

Once all the screening steps are complete, a donor mom can be approved. While MMBNT is located in Fort Worth, Texas, donors come from all over. The geographic diversity of donors is similar to that of the hospitals and outpatients served, and MMBNT strives to create a convenient experience no matter where donors live.

Donor moms who live in or near Fort Worth often drop off their donations in person, directly to MMBNT. Staff love to meet donors and show them around the office, including the lab, where donors can see processing and pasteurization as it happens.

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Donor milk shipped to MMBNT
Donor milk shipped to MMBNT.

If MMBNT is not a convenient location, there are more than 40 collection sites, known as depots, where moms can drop off their donations. These include hospitals, WIC clinics, and other sites equipped to safely store milk donations until they can be picked up. Most depots are in Texas, but there are also locations in Arkansas, Florida and Georgia.

While most donors utilize one of these two options, there are still some who don’t have a depot near them. For these moms, the donor coordinators will send them materials to safely ship their milk to MMBNT overnight.

Milk donors are the heroes of the milk bank. At MMBNT, we are so thankful for their dedication to the mission of helping critically ill infants. If you are interested in becoming a donor, click here.

Answering Your Questions, Part III: Milk & Money

Mon, 10/31/2016 - 7:46 pm
Pasteurized milk in 100mL and 200mL bottles

Last week's blog, "Why We Pasteurize", was the second article in a reposted three-part series that addresses frequently-asked questions in milk banking. Today's post explains the who, what and why related to donor milk, costs and processing fees.

 

Who We Are

Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas is a nonprofit milk bank located in Fort Worth's medical district. There are no owners or investors profiting from our donated milk. Because milk is donated, we do not charge for the milk itself, only for the processing fees incurred to ensure donor milk is safe for critically ill infants. We are very proud of our ability to keep costs low and charge only what is needed to continue to provide life-saving donor human milk for the babies who need it to survive.

 

What We Charge

Most nonprofit milk banks charge $4.00 to $5.50 per ounce. At MMBNT, we assess a processing fee of $4.40 per ounce, which does not cover all operating expenses. We rely on the generosity of individual donations and charitable funders to supplement our costs.

 

Why We Charge

Processing safe milk for sick babies is expensive. Our fees pay for the operating costs and expenses of providing safe donor milk for sick babies, which includes:

  1. Donor screening
  2. Blood testing of potential donors for multiple diseases, including HIV
  3. Lab testing of milk
  4. Pasteurization
  5. Packaging
  6. Storage
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MMBNT outpatient Liam
Liam, one of MMBNT's recipients

 

Who We Charge

For hospitalized babies, the NICU orders the milk and the hospital pays the processing fees just like they pay for blood, medication and nutritional supplements. Donor milk is only a small part of the treatment for preemies in the NICU.

For sick babies at home with a medical need for donor milk, costs are paid by Medicaid or private insurance. Our charitable care program ensures that a baby is never turned away based on the family's ability to pay processing fees. In 2015, MMBNT provided $526,390 of charitable care. Most of these families had no insurance, had reached their policy's lifetime maximum or had other situations preventing insurance reimbursement. Those we served included babies with HIV issues, feeding tubes, heart defects, severe bowel malformations and those awaiting organ transplants. Babies are prioritized based on their medical condition, not their ability to pay.

 

A Little Milk Goes a Long Way

Eighty percent of the babies we serve are tiny preemies in the NICU who require a very small, but important, volume of milk. The total cost to feed these babies is as little as $7.00 per day.

 

While every baby can benefit from human milk, it is important to appropriate donor milk where it can do the most good for the most babies. At Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, we are so very grateful to the donor mothers willing to share their milk with these precious babies that have so much to lose without it.

For more information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.

 

Answering Your Questions, Part II: Why We Pasteurize

Mon, 10/24/2016 - 2:06 pm
Setting milk in the pasteurizer

Last week’s blog, “Breastmilk & Bacteria”, was the first post in a reposted three-part series that addresses frequently-asked questions in milk banking. Today’s post explains the pasteurization method used at MMBNT, and why it is an important step in the process.

Pasteurization ensures safety for sick babies.

Our pasteurization, called the Holder method, is very different from traditional pasteurization in the dairy industry.  Used for decades in milk banking, Holder pasteurization gently preserves 60 to 100 percent of the immunological properties that protect preemies from deadly infections and complications in the NICU. The macronutrients remain unchanged. 

Current scientific research shows that gentle pasteurization yields safe donor milk for the tiniest babies while maintaining immune protection.  Donor milk remains frozen and has a short expiration date to ensure babies receive as many immunological benefits as possible.

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Milk just out of the pasteurizer

Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas is a member of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), which governs non-profit milk banking practices in the United States and Canada.  For more information about processing guidelines, see HMBANA’s website by clicking here.

While every baby can benefit from human milk, it is important to appropriate donor milk where it can do the most good for the most babies. At Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, we are so very grateful to the donor mothers willing to share their milk with these precious babies that have so much to lose without it.

For more information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.

Event Recap: 12th Anniversary Luncheon

Wed, 10/05/2016 - 1:12 pm
Luncheon table setup

Medical professionals, community supporters, donor moms and recipients all gathered to celebrate another year of milk banking at Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas’ 12th anniversary luncheon last week at Ridglea Country Club. The theme, A Dozen Reasons for a Dozen Years, honored donor milk recipients and featured the great strides made in their health due to receiving milk.

Ashley Robbins Gonzales, President of the Board of Directors, started the program by recognizing all sponsors, board members and members of the milk bank family. Executive Director Amy Vickers spoke about the milk bank’s progress in the past year, as well as milestones that have been achieved since opening in 2004. Additionally, she featured two recipient success stories.

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Raffle table

Donor mom and NEC Society founder Jennifer Canvasser took the stage after Amy to share her story. She spoke about her twins, Micah and Zachary, who were born premature and the struggles Micah faced after birth. After Micah lost his battle with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), Jennifer was inspired to start the NEC Society.

Luncheon attendees also enjoyed a raffle filled with gift baskets and prizes, from restaurant gift cards to jewelry to fitness class passes. The luncheon also brought back a milk bank favorite: the bundt cake lottery. Attendees entered a donation-based drawing for a chance to win the bundt cakes decorating their tables.

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Jennifer Canvasser, Amy Vickers, Ashley Robbins Gonzales
Jennifer Canvasser, Amy Vickers, Ashley Robbins Gonzales

Funds raised at the luncheon benefit the Milk Money Fund, a charitable care program that ensures all babies with a medical necessity receive donor milk, regardless of the family’s ability to cover processing fees. This year’s event will help the milk bank continue to help babies thrive on donor milk.

Thank you to everyone who made the 12th anniversary luncheon a success!

For more information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.

A Dozen Years of Milk Banking in North Texas

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 5:24 pm
Pasteurized milk bottles

While Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas is a vital part of caring for critically ill infants today, 12 years ago it was just getting started. Before the establishment of MMBNT, local neonatologists utilized donor milk from other milk banks in neonatal intensive care units. It soon became clear that North Texas needed its own milk bank to meet the demand for donor milk in the area.

Dr. Susan Sward-Comunelli, a Fort Worth neonatologist, organized a group of child health advocates to support the establishment of a local milk bank. This group believed in serving babies with donor milk from this community and others across North Texas.

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Entrance to MMBNT

Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas dispensed its first batch of milk in the fall of 2004. In 2004, MMBNT dispensed 4,155 ounces to premature and critically ill infants. Steady growth meant that the milk bank outgrew its first location within Fort Worth’s Child Study Center. To accommodate the increasing amount of milk both received and dispensed, MMBNT moved to its current location on West Magnolia Avenue in Fort Worth in 2011.

With each year, MMBNT has continued to serve more babies in need. In 2015, 552,761 ounces were dispensed, and the milk bank is on track for more growth in 2016. So far, 2016 has welcomed 520 new donor moms and 5 new milk collection sites, or depots.

“The future is very bright at Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas,” Amy Vickers, Executive Director, said. “Our staff is passionate about helping premature and critically ill infants, and strives to serve more every year. We are excited about our growth and furthering our special mission of saving tiny, precious lives.”

For more information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.