Yarmouth health center to collect breast milk donations

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YARMOUTH — The state’s second human milk depot is opening at Tree of Life Naturopathic and Midwifery Care.

Tree of Life will hold a public grand opening 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m Oct. 1 at 106 Lafayette St. The health care center will be unveiling a deep freezer that will store milk donations.

Tree of Life will be accepting milk from any mother who passes a screening test with Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast.

“There are a number of moms who are oversupplied with milk,” Tiffany Carter Skillings, of Tree of Life, said. “Rather than see that supply wasted, they’d rather see it go to another baby.”

Carter Skillings, who is a certified professional midwife and a certified lactation counselor, said she wanted to start a milk donation center because mothers have been asking if Tree of Life accepted donations.

“There are many, many women in the community, not only in Yarmouth, but also south of Portland and as far north as Augusta, who are interested in donating,” she said.

The state’s other milk depot is at Maine Medical Center in Portland. Carter Skillings said having a depot at a holistic care center such as Tree of Life gives mothers other options.

“Most of our patients don’t interface with hospitals on a regular basis, so this is a more convenient location,” she said.

Milk depots collect milk donations and send them to milk banks, where they are screened, tested and pasteurized. The milk is then given to hospitals, where it can be distributed to sick babies.

Babies who are born prematurely and are in neonatal intensive care units are most in need of milk donations, which are used to supplement their own mother’s milk.

According to Tree of Life, one in 10 premature babies develop necrotizing enterocolitis – a disease that can damage the wall of the intestine – and breast milk lowers the risk of developing this condition by 79 percent.

“We feel honored to be a part of a community of women who are eager to share the gift of their milk with other babies during a vulnerable and crucial time in their development,” Carter Skillings said. 

There isn’t a shortage of milk donations in the state, Carter Skillings said, but milk banks are always looking for more.

“There is always a need for more milk,” she said. “Because milk is perishable, donations are needed on a rolling basis.”

All of the milk donated at Tree of Life will be shipped to Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, which is in Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts. The milk bank has distributed milk to more than 70 hospitals in the northeast since 2011.

The screening process for milk donors is similar to the process for blood donors. Donors are screened for diseases or health issues that could be transferred through milk.

Donors can pump at Tree of Life or at home. If they pump at home, they can drop off their milk or mail it in. The milk bank requires donors to donate at least 150 ounces of milk, which can be done over a period of time.

Naomi Bar-Yam, the executive director of Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, said Tree of Life’s milk depot will bring more attention to the importance of donating breast milk.

“Donor mothers find the experience of donating very special, and we hope that the depot at Tree of Life will provide an opportunity for mothers to network with one another about this unique, lifesaving gift,” Bar-Yam said.

Allison Buttarazzi, a mother from Gorham, is Tree of Life’s first donor and will be donating milk at the Oct. 1 grand opening event. 

“Being able to donate my extra milk through Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast has filled my heart with so much joy and pride because I know the milk is going to babies in need,” Buttarazzi said. “And now it’s very exciting that there’s a new milk depot in Yarmouth, making it even easier for local moms to donate.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Tree of Life Naturopathic and Midwifery Care in Yarmouth is opening the state’s second milk depot. Donated milk will be stored in a donated freezer and distributed to babies in need.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.