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Breast milk donations continue curbside amid COVID-19 pandemic

Milk bank, local hospital take extra steps during pandemic to protect babies and donors

SAN ANTONIO – A local hospital and the milk bank it works with are taking extra steps amid the coronavirus pandemic to protect babies and donors.

“The breast milk, the donor milk that moms donate to these premature babies, saves lives,” said Anna Wood, a registered nurse at North Central Baptist Hospital.

Wood works in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). She said breast milk has many health benefits, including fighting off infections.

She said the milk bank is still in need of donors during the pandemic.

“I understand that sometimes moms are a little hesitant to come to the hospital environment,” Wood said.

The hospital is now accepting milk donations curbside.

“We are seeing less people that are dropping off their milk. We’re hoping that perhaps they’re using some of the other sites,” Wood said.

North Central Baptist Hospital works with Mothers’ Milk Bank Austin.

The nonprofit’s executive director, Kim Updegrove, said while there is not a shortage at this time, they are quickly running through all supplies. Updegrove said women who want to donate deal with particular challenges.

“The women who can’t find child care for their children so that they can go out to the labs and get their bloodwork done -- a requirement to be a milk donor -- aren’t able to be milk donors,” Woods said.

Updegrove said women who want to donate typically have to fill out paperwork, as well.

“Mothers who are healthy and making more breast milk than their babies need can be screened. Their milk is donated, and then the milk is processed or pasteurized to make it safe for medically fragile babies,” Woods said.

Updegrove said the coronavirus pandemic has led to an added screening process for donors.

“Are they experiencing a fever or shortness of breath after a cough?” Updegrove said about the screening question they ask.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, in limited studies, COVID-19 had not been detected in breast milk. However, the CDC does not know for sure if mothers with COVID-19 can spread the virus through breast milk.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March. The first case confirmed in the U.S. was in mid-January and the first case confirmed in San Antonio was in mid-February.

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