The women’s hospital in Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua has opened the first Breast Milk Bank in the city, and in all the state. In this hospital, women around the city and also from El Paso, Tx. can go and donate their own milk at the bank. This would benefit premature babies or newborns whose mothers cannot lactate.
A milk bank works the same way as a blood bank: women go and donate their milk to the bank, but first they have to go through certain requirements.
The women that donate first have to qualify and have a surplus of milk production so they can also feed their own children. After that, they have to submit themselves to a blood test so the doctors can examine it and be sure that they meet certain requirements. Once they have the results, the women can donate their own milk, which in turn is then processed.
Once the doctors have the milk, they send it to the laboratories to be tested. They process and pasteurize the milk, then they store it on special fridges. Once it is ready, they can start feeding the babies with it.
Medical studies show that breast milk is healthier and safer for new born babies. In fact, breast milk benefits babies in several ways; it increases their intelligence, protects them from developing obesity and allergies, and it also reduces stress and the risk of postpartum depression.
This project started months ago, and is directed by Dr. Jose Antonio Perez Romero.
Dr. Perez started his medical career in Cd. Juarez, and is part of the first generation of doctors who started the Women's Hospital in the city. He also specializes as a gynecologist and endocrinologist.
The hospital itself specializes in women’s health, and it aids with the birth of approximately 7,000 children per year.
“This is the reason why I felt the responsibility of bringing the project of the Milk Bank to Cd. Juarez,” Dr. Perez said.
According to the Mexican Secretary of Health, there are currently 17 milk banks in the country, including the one in Cd. Juarez.
The project started months ago. Dr. Perez and other doctors started preparing and capacitating the staff, as well as getting the certifications that the hospital needed in order to set the project in motion.
They had to speed up the project when the case of Yamilet Villa was taken to the hospital.
Yamilet was born six weeks before her due date. Her mother was shot in the head during a violent incident in Juarez. Even though her mother died, she fought to remain alive, earning the nickname of "miracle baby" from some of the people at the hospital.
When this event happened the news spread, and the mothers from the city of Juarez responded to the cry for help. Within days the milk bank was operating, starting with three donors, and reaching more than 23 in just a few days.
This event made the mothers from Juarez unite for a cause. Not only did it make them aware of the importance of feeding their baby with breast milk instead of formula, but it created solidarity among the community and those who don’t have the privilege of feeding their own babies with breast milk.
Dora Ivonne Holguin, a mother of a six-month-old baby girl said “This is a great project for various reasons; it provides the message that you have to look for other options before deciding to feed your child with formula instead of breast milk”
Most of the mothers who donate their milk are in their mid-twenties. What makes them special besides being donors is that most of them have a job, or a profession, showing their altruistic spirit. “I see this as a great start because now mothers are aware of the importance of breastfeeding,” Rocio Favela mother of two children added.
The Director of the project is asking for all the mothers that want to donate their milk, to approach the hospital, even if they don’t know if they qualify to be a donor or not.
The project just started, so for the moment all the milk that is donated goes only to the babies that are hospitalized.
According to Dr. Perez, the first stage of the project is to satisfy the needs of the premature babies whose mothers cannot feed because they have HIV, or stress, etc. The long term plan for the project is to be able to feed those babies over a one year period.
El Paso does not feature a milk bank, but there’s an organization called the Binational Breastfeeding Coalition (BBC). They promote the awareness in El Paso’s border region, and their goal is to be able provide the opportunity to breastfeed all the babies along the US/Mexico border by the year 2022.
One of the goals for this project is to expand the banks throughout the city so the mothers can go and donate to their closest hospital instead of going only to the Women Hospital.
“Over a period of 10 years, I want the Women's Hospital to be a place where hospitals from around the state come and get certified and trained for them to open their own Milk Bank,” Dr. Perez said, “I see this project as a seed that I planted. Years from now I will see it flourish”.