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Milk bank enables moms to share lifesaving fluid

by: REVIEW/TIDINGS PHOTOS: VERN UYETAKE - Lesley Mondeaux, left, and Joanne Ransom, both of Lake Oswego, are the co-directors of Northwest Mothers Milk Bank. Here they are packing orders of donated human milk for delivery to area hospitals.

One thousand, one hundred fifty-eight gallons — that’s how much human breast milk has been donated to the Northwest Mothers Milk Bank since it opened July 2013.

Those 1,158 gallons have been saving babies, one drop at a time. And those 1,158 gallons represent a whole lot of effort, when you consider that donations come in two- to six-ounce increments.

According to a 2012 report by the World Health Organization, one out of eight babies in the United States is born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, which can cause serious developmental and health problems.

When mothers are unable to breastfeed their newborns, donated human milk is the best nourishment the babies can receive. Human milk can prevent serious illnesses and feeding complications associated with premature birth.

Lake Oswego residents Lesley Mondeaux and Joanne Ransom are registered nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. For the past 24 years the two have worked together, they have built a solid reputation for being a highly effective team.

As lactation consultants they have worked with mothers in the Portland area, sending donor milk for processing to the Mothers Milk Bank in Denver, which was then returned to Portland for distribution. Shipping the frozen milk back and forth was a growing expense — could it be processed in Portland?

In 2008, Mondeaux and Ransom, together with other passionate lactation professionals and community supporters, began working toward the goal of establishing a human donor milk bank to serve the Northwest.

For five years, the group made it its mission to raise funds and gather community support while increasing the use of donor milk to develop a working milk bank. The final hurdle of the project fell away when Providence Medical Group provided office space rent-free for seven years.

This generous donation enabled NWMMB under the co-direction of Ransom and Mondeaux to open and begin the work of accepting milk donations, pasteurizing and distributing milk in Portland. Now Portland is one of 13 communities in the United States to have a milk bank.

“We are a community milk bank,” Ransom said. “We aren’t associated with a particular hospital but serve all hospitals in the area. And we have very generous mothers who want to give back to the community and benefit other children.”

According to Ransom and Mondeaux, human milk provides a baby the best start in life and milk banking allows a mother who finds herself with excess milk the opportunity to make a difference by giving another baby a chance to thrive. Milk banks such as NWNNB follow international guidelines established by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America in conjunction with the Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration. Donors go through a rigorous screening process; complete an extensive questionnaire regarding their health, medications and eating habits and undergo a blood test.

The milk itself is tested and, when accepted, pasteurized and then frozen. It is then delivered to area hospitals, where it is distributed with a physician’s prescription to babies who need it most.

Ransom checks an order before it will be packed on ice for delivery.

“Research shows that especially for premature, ill and vulnerable infants, it shortens hospital stays and can prevent serious complications. When a mother’s own milk is not available, donor milk plays a vital role,” Mondeaux said. She said mothers are so grateful that donor milk was available for their babies they often become donors themselves. She also said that often when a baby doesn’t live, the mom takes solace in donating milk, doing what she can to save another fragile baby.

“It can help with the grieving process,” she said.

Mondeaux and Ransom have built a solid program, but are quick to give credit where it is due. They are grateful for the support of the women who donate their milk, and want to encourage others to donate when they can. Mondeaux said at this time the milk bank is able to meet the local demand, but “we’ll never turn down milk,” she said.

“Our donors are amazing women, so willing to give back,” Ransom said. To learn about donating milk, call NWMMB at 503-469-0955.

To help build awareness, NWMMB will assist with the Run Like a Mother Race to be held at 8:30 a.m. on Mother’s Day, May 11, in Hillsboro. Learn more online at runlikeamother.com/events/portland-or

As with all nonprofits, NWMMB must raise funds to support the program. To learn how you can help, visit nwmmb.org or call 503-469-0955. NWMMB is located at 417 SW 117th Ave., Suite 105, Portland, 97225.


By Barb Randall
Staff Reporter
503-636-1281 Ext 100
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The generosity of donor mothers is not lost on the staff of NWMMB. Every donation helps save lives.



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