As families around the Pine Belt, the state, and the country struggle to find formula for their little ones, three Hattiesburg healthcare facilities are joining forces to do what they can to help. Forrest General Hospital’s Women & Children’s Services, Merit Health Wesley, and Southeast Mississippi Rural Health Initiative (SeMRHI) are partnering with the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Mississippi to hold four breast milk drives in the Hub City. The drives will be held from noon until 3 p.m. on different days at each healthcare facility.
Drives are set for:
- July 6 – Forrest General Hospital, main entrance, drive-thru, 6051 U.S. Hwy 49
- July 11 – Merit Health Wesley, Merit Health Primary Care, Suite 100, 1st floor Merit Health Wesley Towers, 5003 Hardy Street
- August 1 – Forrest General Hospital, main entrance, drive-thru, 6051 U.S. Hwy 49
- August 11 – SeMRHI, Women’s Health Center, 62 Old Airport Road
“We understand the importance of caring for our community as we do our patients,” said Millie Swan, vice president. “Hopefully, by coming together with other medical facilities, we can garner enough donations to help relieve some of the struggles families are facing across the Pine Belt.”
The Mothers’ Milk Bank of Mississippi is the state’s only accredited HMBANA milk bank. It is medically-supported and professionally staffed and can process, store, and dispense human breast milk for state residents. The non-profit is supported by volunteers.
“With the nation’s deficiency of baby formula, it’s our allegiance, as a healthcare organization, to host a Milk Drive in the Pine Belt,” said Janice Robinson, SeMRHI chief operating officer. “The drive will aid parents in ensuring the future generation is healthy and safe. Many of the patients we serve live below the poverty level, and this will benefit them to have local resources available regardless of their health or income disparities.”
With formula hard to come by in many instances, one option for families is the use of breast milk donated by women from across the state who have been approved by the Milk Bank. Once approved, the milk is vetted, processed, and distributed.
A spokesperson with the Milk Bank said while their mission is to supply milk to premature and NICU babies, there are times when milk that does not meet the caloric intake needed by sick and premature babies, is available to the public. “We can dispense 34 ounces without a prescription, but after that a prescription is required,” she said. “There is also the cost to cover the milk as well as a shipping cost if the family needs the milk sent to them.” Those needing milk must call the Milk Bank office, 601-939-5504, and check availability on a weekly basis.
"Increasing donor breast milk availability throughout our state is important for the development of our high-risk infants, particularly those who would need types of formula that are difficult to find right now," said Merit Health Wesley OB/GYN, Shantele Bolton, M.D. "These donations can directly benefit our own NICU babies at Merit Health Wesley, so holding events like these to benefit the Mother's Milk Bank organization is something our team is excited to begin."
Women around the Pine Belt who are interested in donating excess breast milk must first be approved through a screening process. Donors must be non-smokers in good general health, not currently using certain medications or herbal supplements. A phone screening and blood work is required of all interested donors. Donors can prescreen prior to the milk drive or can be screened onsite at the time of drop-off. There is no cost for potential donors. An initial donation of 100 ounces is required. To prescreen or if you are interested in donating breastmilk, call 601-939-5504.
Hattiesburg physicians, Anita and Randy Henderson, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician, and neonatologist, respectively, sit on the Milk Bank’s Board of Directors.