The first milk bank in the state has opened in Guilford. It's a place where mothers in Connecticut can donate their breast milk.
There are women who share their extra milk with mothers who are having trouble keeping up with their baby's feedings. Some even try selling it online. But it's a bodily fluid, so health professionals say these options aren't entirely safe.
"Certainly a cause to be concerned if they're buying milk and they don't know where they came from or that it's never been tested," said Jan Ferraro, a certified lactation counselor who is in charge of the Human Milk Depot in Guilford.
The milk bank opened February 25 inside Acelleron Medical Products, where Ferraro is now director of education. She said the company has partnered with the non-profit Mother's Milk Bank Northeast to accept milk for babies who need it. Ferraro said before they accept a donation, women must pass a health screening and undergo a blood test.
"Once we get this milk, it gets shipped right to Mother's Milk Bank Northeast, where it gets pasteurized and tested again," Ferraro said. "They then put it in their database, and as hospitals need it, they tell Mother’s Milk Bank what they need -- and then it gets forwarded onto the hospitals."
Hospitals like St. Francis in Hartford. Alexandra Nagy is a registered nurse and lactation specialist there. She said the hospital has been getting donated milk for one year.
Even though the donations are pasteurized -- heated slightly to kill bacteria which breaks down some components in breast milk-- Nagy said the milk is still very beneficial for babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.
"It boosts the ability to fight infection including the infection of the bowel lining that a lot of pre- term babies or sick infants are at risk for," Nagy said.
There are two dozen milk banks across the country and in Canada, according to the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.