First of its kind milk share program launches in Lincoln

It’s no secret that life changes a lot when you have a newborn baby and feeding that baby can be stressful in more ways than one.
Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 6:20 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -It’s no secret that life changes a lot when you have a newborn baby and feeding that baby can be stressful in more ways than one. There is a new option for feeding newborns in Lincoln for individuals unable to provide human milk for their baby, they can get it for free through the Malone Maternal Wellness Milk Share Program.

The program launched a few weeks ago, and they’re still looking for more human milk donors. They said the informed-consent milk share program is the first of its kind in Lincoln, and in the country and it’s going to remove barriers for families in feeding their children breast milk.

The donation process starts with screening the donor for HIV, Hepatitis A, B, C, HTLV, and Syphilis.

“The blood screening and the health history that we are following really follows the international guidelines for safe donor milk sharing,” said Cydney Gaines, community member.

The milk is pumped by the pre-screened donor, picked up by a milk-share employee, and can be delivered within a two-hour radius.

“There might be a number of people who maybe can’t lactate or chest or breastfeed. So we’re thinking of adoptive parents, foster care, parents, people who are providing respite care, you know, people who might have, you know, an interaction with a medication that might deplete their breast milk,” Gaines said. “And so we want to make sure that we’re providing that milk for a number of people who choose to provide human milk for their babies.”

The bags the donors put the milk in, the freezer storage, the delivery, it’s all free.

“Providing breast milk is hard. It’s hard work, it takes a lot of time and energy,” Gaines said. “And for families that maybe aren’t able to breastfeed, they need to be able to access human milk. When it costs money, it creates a barrier for low-income folks or folks of various economic statuses. And so we wanted to make sure that our community had equitable access to milk. Formula isn’t always accessible, there is a formula shortage. It also is not very affordable, it can be very expensive. And so when we provide free resources to the community, it creates equitable access for everyone to receive benefits that way.”

For mother and breastfeeding educator, Annabelle Elya, finding safe and affordable breast milk is a problem she’s faced before.

“There is a way to make sure that it’s safe, and that the parents are safe when they pick it up,” Elya said. “And the milk is safe when we’re giving it to the babies. And we can do this without charging people.”

The program is made possible by key partnerships in the community, it’s sponsored by Healthy Blue and all donor screenings are done by Frontier Pediatrics.

Elya said that this program will change lives.

“It really normalizes the whole process,” Elya said. “This is what community is meant to be. It’s meant to be a sharing of our resources. It’s meant to be leaning on one another. And when somebody has access, we give it to someone that doesn’t. That’s the community mindset. And so it’s a really beautiful thing we’re doing here.”

To learn more about how you can help check out the program’s website.