Center hailed as first of its kind in the Northwest

The opening of Northwest Mothers Milk Bank, what its leaders are calling the first donor mother’s milk bank in the Pacific Northwest, will be celebrated on Thursday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at at 417 S.W. 117th Ave.

The grand opening event is free and open to the public.

State Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, a family physician at Oregon Health Science University and Hospital, will be a guest speaker, and milk bank Co-Directors Joanne Ransom and Lesley Mondeaux will present the Healthcare Champion Award to Providence Health and Services, with Kathy Criswell of Women/Children’s Services at Providence accepting the award.

“Providence Health & Services has been instrumental to (the milk bank’s) development,” said Lesley Mondeaux, the center’s co-executive director. “They have provided the foundation of physical space and services that have allowed us to open our doors.”

The nonprofit Northwest Mothers Milk Bank has hired staff, equipped its milk-processing room and will begin pasteurizing donor human milk this month.

“We have finalized our procedures and protocols to make sure our screening and processing are safe and effective for infants.” said Joanne Ransom, the center’s co-executive director.

Until the opening of the Northwest Mothers Milk Bank, regional hospitals had to receive donor human milk from the two nearest milk banks in San Jose, Calif., and Denver. The northwest center is the first nonprofit milk bank accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America and only the 12th milk bank in the United States, Ransom said.

Human milk provides optimal nutrition, promotes normal growth and development, and reduces the risk of illness and disease. A milk bank receives milk donated by mothers who have more milk than their babies need. The milk is screened, pasteurized and distributed, primarily to premature and sick babies whose mothers don’t have sufficient milk, providing life-saving medicine to fragile, newborn infants.

All Portland-area health systems with Neonatal Intensive Care Units use donor human milk as needed for their infants when a mother’s own milk is not available.

“Each drop of donated milk is a miracle,” said Dr. Stefanie Rogers, neonatologist with Northwest Newborn Specialists, and a founder of the Northwest bank. “When the most fragile infants receive breast milk, they have lower risk of infections and life threatening intestinal complications. They leave the intensive care unit earlier, and later in life they have higher IQs and fewer developmental problems.”

Other community hospital systems, including Legacy Health and Oregon Health and Science University; the Oregon health insurance coalition, Oregon Health Insurers Partnering for Prevention, the Autzen Foundation, Juan Young Trust and OEEB/ODS Health Initiative Grant; and many individual donors have also contributed funding to the fledgling center during its five-year development phase.

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