WakeMed Milk Bank expands to Cary

CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- WakeMed's Milk Bank has moved to a new, larger location, and the staff hopes more space will translate to more room for breast milk donations to help infants in need.

The Milk Bank made the move from the main Raleigh campus to WakeMed Cary in late May.

"It was really, really cramped at Raleigh, and we made it work for a number of years, but it's nice to finally have the space to breathe and be able to process the milk we need to process," says Montana Wagner-Gillespie with the Milk Bank. "Now that we're in Cary we're hoping for growth, we can serve more babies with this location because we can do more volume with this location."

The Milk Bank collects, processes, and pasteurizes donated breast milk to be sent out to NICU's here in North Carolina and all along the east coast.

"We always need more milk because we always have premature babies that we're trying to support with donor breast milk in the event that the mother can't breastfeed," explains Director of Women's and Children's Services Bonnie Gustavison.

This includes mothers whose babies are born before the mother's supply has come in. It also includes mothers of multiples who simply can't make enough milk.

Health officials agree that for newborns, getting access to breast milk offers a huge boost to their immune systems and early development, even when it's not from their own mother.

Access to breast milk can also be life-saving in treating something called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a very severe intestinal problem that premature babies get.

WakeMed has tried to spread the word between its facilities, with nurses and lactation consultants alerting patients that there's a need for donated breast milk. It was that call for help that resonated with Annemarie Janssen, a mother of 3 who just made her first donation.

"I just feel that breast milk is important and if I have the extra why not give it to people who need it?" she explained.

Like Janssen, women can drop off extra milk at the WakeMed in Cary, or at any WakeMed location. Breast milk can also be shipped via prepaid coolers the hospital sends. Typically, the milk bank accepts donations of 100 ounces or more at a time.

Just like donated blood, donors are carefully screened first and the milk itself is put through a stringent testing process to ensure that it's safe for consumption.

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