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Kern Medical Center Launches New Milk Donation Program for Premature Babies

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23ABC News Bakersfield

July 24, 2018

Kern Medical Center (KMC) is the first hospital in Kern County now offering new mothers and their premature babies donated breast milk.

San Jose Milk Bank and Prolacta are the two organizations teaming up KMC to help provide the exclusive human milk diet to babies receiving hospital treatment. One mother told The Now that she wished this program were around earlier.

Kern County resident Becky Brown wanted a baby for over a decade. It took her nine years, a miscarriage, along with five rounds of in vitro fertilization treatments (IBF) to finally make that dream come true. "Having a miscarriage was the hardest thing that has ever happened to me," Brown said.  

On November 3, 2016 she eventually became the mother of Parker Hope Brown. "On my 35th birthday my phone rang it was blocked number and I answered it and it was my doctor calling to wish me a happy birthday and to tell me that I was pregnant," Brown said.

Unfortunately it was a little earlier than expected, "She decided that she was going to come at 27 weeks," Brown said.

Brown also works as a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Memorial Hospital in Bakersfield, so she knew that Parker's early arrival could present some challenges. According to Brown most babies born before 32 weeks are considered premature and when breast feeding for Brown also became challenging she turned to baby formula, "And after her first feeding she threw it all up."

Since Memorial Hospital didn't have donated milk available for mothers like Brown, she took to Facebook about her breast-feeding challenges and one woman from Santa Clarita had extra milk and was willing to donate. Brown knew she was taking a chance without having the milk tested, but with no where else to turn she took the risk and Parker is now feeding on Brown's milk and the donated milk.

Two years have gone by and that's no longer a sacrifice that premature babies and mothers like Brown and Parker will have to face anymore in Kern County, now that KMC is paving the way for human milk donation. "You can donate through Prolacta or the San Jose Milk bank," KMC Dietician Jordan Dennis said.

Dennis and staff members teamed up with both organizations to give mothers like Brown a more monitored supply of donated human milk and to make digestion easier on babies like Parker. "They do screen the milk and Prolacta has never had an instance of an infant actually receiving contaminated milk," Dennis said.

Dennis said she spent three years compiling cost-benefit analysis data from the intensive care unit to prove that KMC would save at least $100,000 in preventative care and that human milk was one of the best options for babies born prematurely to return home sooner to mothers like Brown.

According to Dennis and the San Jose Milk Bank verbal screenings, health questionnaires and blood work are conducted on mothers who want to donate as well as mothers in need, before the donated milk screenings take place. This initial screen helps detect any medications, diseases or bacteria in the milk and it helps babies get the nutrition they need from the right donor.

Mothers in Kern County who want to donate their surplus of milk can now simply go online and both organizations will help donors through the process.

To help ensure a greater possibility of a healthy development of their baby, all that mothers need now is a prescription from their doctor to be eligible for a donation, "I would definitely go that route of wanting donor milk," Brown said.

The Now also made calls to other hospitals in Kern County to see if they are planning on implementing the milk program and haven’t heard back. Baby Parker is now almost two-years-old and is maintaining a healthy weight. If you are a mother in need or would like to donate you can simply click this link.