UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica (File photo)

Lactating women with even a small amount of breast milk to spare can make a big difference in the lives of premature infants by donating it at an inaugural “Breast Milk Drive” hosted by The BirthPlace at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica on Saturday, Nov. 17.

The event will occur from 9 a.m. to noon on “World Prematurity Day,” as designated by the March of Dimes, and will be held in Conference Rooms 2 and 3 at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, 1250 16th St. All breast-milk donations will be accepted for screening and participants will have the option of becoming certified donors.

Additional activities will include car-seat safety information, infant massage demonstrations, an introduction to Urban Zen integrative therapy and other baby-related topics and displays.

“Just one ounce of breast milk can feed a premature infant for two days,” said Genevieve Colvin-Thomas, lactation and breastfeeding specialist at the BirthPlace.” But human milk is one of the rarest and hardest-to-acquire commodities on the planet because only about 2.5 percent of the population is ever breastfeeding or pregnant at any given time.”

Colvin-Thomas said breast milk donations primarily benefit very low-birth-weight babies – generally, those born at less than 32 weeks’ gestation.

“Mothers of premature babies can sometimes produce a full milk supply, but stress or the complications that caused the premature birth can interfere with the mother’s milk production,” she said. “Fragile babies benefit the most from these milk donations, and it is a beautiful way for one mother to support another.”

Colvin-Thomas hopes the drive will help new mothers see that every ounce could make a difference. “We want to encourage new mothers who may have a little extra milk to take the next step of becoming ‘certified’ donors and show them how easy it is to ship milk once it’s pumped.”

The process is simple. Certified donors collect about 100 ounces and ship it to the Mother’s Milk Bank in San Jose, Calif., which covers the cost of materials and shipping. The milk bank screens for diseases and medications that could be harmful, using criteria similar to blood banks. The milk then gets processed for distribution to hospitals and families. Last year, the milk bank distributed more than 550,000 ounces to 114 hospitals nationwide.

There is scientific evidence that breast milk from mothers and donors provides optimal nutrition for the most fragile and vulnerable infants.

“The milk drive is a community effort to ensure that families have access to donor milk when mom’s own milk is unavailable,” said Pauline Sakamoto, executive director of the San Jose milk bank, which will participate in the Santa Monica event. “The babies we serve are the tiniest of premature infants and babies who are not thriving at home. This is a celebration of leaders in lactation and lactating mothers.”

Registration for the drive is recommended, but not required. To register or for more information, call 424-259-8251.

Submitted by Sandy Van


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