Health Team

WakeMed breast milk bank running critically low

Posted January 28, 2011
Updated February 1, 2011

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— The breast milk that 1-month-old Annabelle gets is packed with antibodies and growth hormones. But the milk doesn't come from her mother. It is from breast milk donors. 

A few years ago, after testing positive for the breast cancer gene BRCA-2, Annabelle's mother, Patricia Sheff, had a double mastectomy.

She found out that WakeMed Hospital’s Mother's Milk Bank – one of only nine in the country – offered milk to women who can't nurse their own babies. The bank offers the milk only after meeting the needs of premature babies in intensive care units.

Now, the supply at the bank is critically low.

“I am turning away people who would like to have milk for their babies,” milk bank coordinator Susan Evans said.

In situations like this, Evans said, she refers many parents to other milk banks in the country. The group also puts out a call to their usual donors, like Holly Tibbo-Valeriote.

“I’m able to nurse, and I know that some moms can’t, so it was my way of giving back,” Tibbo-Valeriote said.

Tibbo-Valeriote’s daughter spent her first days in intensive care. She could nurse her daughter, but had an oversupply of milk that she knew could help other preemies and babies like Annabelle.

“Annabelle has a shot at, you know, just being as healthy as she can be,” Sheff said.

WakeMed WakeMed breast milk bank running critically low

Donors are medically screened, and their milk is carefully homogenized with other donors' milk, pasteurized and stored until needed. They can personally deliver their milk or ship it in packaged coolers.

“Those little babies are so tiny, and the benefits are so huge,” Tibbo-Valeriote said.


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  • luvgemins Feb 3, 2011

    Thank you "Regular Girl"!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • MomOfTwins Feb 3, 2011

    To the question of what do non-breast fed preemies drink- there are special high-calorie formulas for preemies that have a higher fat content that they need for brain development.

  • azinfandgal Feb 2, 2011

    In my family - breastfed 2 kids and for various reasons did not breastfeed the other 2. The 2 that were not breast fed had few colds and other illnesses. Both were at the top of their high school classes and earned advanced degrees. Other 2 that were breast fed are great kids but did not achieve the academic success of the other 2 and seemed to be constantly sick. One has terrible asthma. Why - go figure? (yes all had the same father). I did the best I could for all of them. I think we need to support ALL mothers and trust that they are making the best choices for their kids whether or not they breastfeed. There are many factors involved in raising a healthy, happy child and this is only one of them.

  • DAR-Patriot Feb 2, 2011

    Breastfeeding is better for babies and mothers for a lot of different reasons. My husband and I have five children and they were all breastfed. I am glad I did the best I could for them. I teach breastfeeding to pregnant women and encourage them to do the same for their babies.

    Having said that, breastfeeding is a choice a woman makes. Unfortunately the choice many times is based on erroneous information. Information given to them by women who did not breast feed or failed to breast feed and they either knowingly or unknowingly sabbotage the breastfeeding efforts of others.

    I would advise a woman thinking about breastfeeding to get good reliable information on which to base your decision.

  • azinfandgal Feb 2, 2011

    OGE - get a grip - not allowed to be a mother??? With all the women abusing their children, strung out on drugs and just plain out neglecting their children - breastfeeding ranks down pretty low (in fact not at all) on my list of mother qualifications! Until you know a person's situation, I would refrain from making such blanket statements. Plenty of babies are raised on formula - and turn out bright, healthy and well-adjusted. How about a mother that regularly abuses drugs/alcohol and still breastfeeds - how can that be the best thing?

  • OGE Feb 2, 2011

    Any mother who chooses not to breast feed when they are able should not be allowed to be a mother at all. How can you not give something to your baby that is clearly the best thing for them?

  • Regular girl Feb 2, 2011

    I have been told by a nurse that works at Wake MEds mother/baby unit that well full term babies that the mothers don't want to breastfeed are to be offered breast milk before formula (it is a new policy). So no wonder they are running short, they are making nurses offer it to perfectly healthy full term babies whose own mother could breastfeed if she so chooses.

  • ohnoyoudidnt Feb 1, 2011

    (sorry, got cut off...)
    I'm sorry to have gotten off topic, as I do support these banks, and hope people will continue to donate their surplus milk to WakeMed.

  • ohnoyoudidnt Feb 1, 2011

    beeware--the fact that your dog and cat happened to choose breast milk over formula is not grounds for your insinuation that formula is not fit for a dog, or inferior to toilet water. And I still ask (I don't have a can of formula handy, and quite frankly, wonder why you do since you so clearly abhor it), but what do hospitals feed preemies when breast milk is not available (for whatever reason)? That is fantastic that you must have an over supply that you can donate to milk banks (which, by the way, I very much support, as I do breastfeeding in general). But self righteous mentalities like yours are insulting to mothers who cannot breastfeed for a whole multitude of reasons, and who are not eligible to get donated breast milk. Formula is not poison. I have a beautiful, healthy daugther of well above average inelligence to prove it. There are plenty of opportunities for mothers to feel guilty without ideals like these being shoved in their faces. I'm sorry to have gotten off topic, as

  • BubbaDukeforPresident Feb 1, 2011

    As a free-market entrepreneur, I see the potential for automating a human dairy here. Turnover would be high and the product would have to be shared with the donor's own infant; but here's a niche market that needs exploring.