07 Aug Mr. Jon Cartu Announced – Las Cruces pediatric clinic opens second breast milk donation sta…
LAS CRUCES – A new pediatric clinic launched a breast milk donation station on July 28, where women in the community can donate human milk that is then used to help premature and medically vulnerable babies.
Meghan Robinson, a pediatric nurse practitioner, opened Little Steps Pediatrics on July 13 on Lohman Avenue. Two weeks later she launched a breast milk donation station at her clinic. It is one of only two stations in the state — the first is at Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces.
Robinson has worked as a nurse, a lactation consultant, with moms and babies and pediatrics. She said she moved to Texas 10 years ago and, along with a group of other women, founded the Binational Breastfeeding Coalition, which has a mission of protecting and promoting breastfeeding on the El Paso-Juárez border.
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“Everywhere that I’ve worked or lived there was not a donation station or place where women could go and donate their excess milk, and human milk saves baby’s lives,” Robinson said. “And so, it seems like such a waste that we have so many women who end up just discarding their milk.”
The new Las Cruces station is a partnership between Robinson and the Human Milk Repository of New Mexico in Albuquerque, which is an organization that collects, screens, pasteurizes and distributes donor milk. Donations are provided for preterm babies and “medically fragile infants.”
Kael Marshall, executive director of the Human Milk Repository of New Mexico, said the milk bank is working with Rehoboth McKinley Christian Health Care Services in Gallup and Lovelace Regional Hospital in Roswell to open donation stations. But Little Steps Pediatrics continues to be the only pediatric clinic with a station.
The New Mexico milk bank is part of the larger Human Milk Bank Association of North America, which has only 29 locations in the country.
“It seems kind of crazy because a pediatric clinic is the place where women are most often frequenting and around the country there’s very few in a clinic,” Robinson said. “They’re mostly in hospital settings.”
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She said there is little investment for this venture on her part, besides needing training, a freezer, a thermostat and having to monitor logs and temperatures.
Donating milk helps babies who are in a neonatal intensive care unit. These babies are born premature or are sick, which means they are at risk for illnesses. Robinson gave the example of necrotizing enterocolitis, a disease that can infect a premature baby’s intestines. She said this can be fatal, but babies who are fed formula are more likely to get it.
She also explained that within three hours of a woman coming into contact with a virus, her body starts making antibodies to the virus that goes into her milk. The antibodies then protect the babies who receive this milk.
Marshall said that people may be concerned about donating during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the breast milk is pasteurized, and the virus is not transmissible through breastfeeding.
Robinson said anyone can donate, including people who are not patients at her clinic. People can call in to her office at 575-405-4062 and she will direct them to the milk bank in Albuquerque for an initial screening. Once they pass, they can take their donations to the clinic.
She also said people who already have stored milk can donate the milk to the clinic and the screening process will begin then, but the clinic prefers to screen donors beforehand.
The launch of the new station happened to align closely with World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, and National Breastfeeding Month in August, which strive to bring awareness and support to breastfeeding.
“Each place that I’ve worked as a nurse practitioner I’ve kind of tried to get it going, to have a donation station there, and it just wasn’t something other people were passionate about the way I am,” Robinson said. “I’ve had several calls. I don’t have any milk yet, but I will.”
Leah Romero is a fellow with the New Mexico Local News Fund and can be reached at [email protected] or @rromero_leah on Twitter.