Denise O'Connor, left, is the founder and president of Three Rivers Mothers' Milk Bank. Here, she poses for a picture with Dr. Alan Lantzy, a neonatologist at West Penn Hospital.
By Michael A. Fuoco / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Milk donors, foundations and other invited guests today will visit the new Strip District headquarters of the Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank, the region’s first milk bank and the only one serving hospitals throughout the state.
Those attending the open house from 4 to 7 p.m. will be able to tour the facility at 3127 Penn Ave. and to see how donor breast milk is processed. A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at 5 p.m.
The facility, which began startup operations late last year, is the culmination of more than two years of planning and fundraising, with hundreds of thousands of dollars provided by a number of foundations.
The mission of the nonprofit is to provide donated breast milk to the “sickest of the sick” babies in neonatal intensive care units throughout Pennsylvania and West Virginia when milk from their own mothers is not available. The remaining 15 percent to 20 percent of the breast milk will be distributed to outpatient babies who also need breast milk from someone other than their mother because of allergies or other maladies.
Although breast milk is considered beneficial for all babies, it is recommended as the “standard of care” for premature babies, particularly for its effectiveness in preventing a dangerous stomach infection called necrotizing enterocolitis.
“The response has been very good,” said Denise O’Connor, founder of the milk bank that already has between 80 and 100 milk donors. “We’re progressing nicely.
“We’re actually at a point now, with the amount of milk we have, that we are able to service outpatients. We didn’t anticipate being able to do that at this point.”
Following its expected certification this spring by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, the Pittsburgh facility will be among 25 active milk banks operating in the U.S. and Canada. Another four facilities are listed as developing.
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, already an active milk bank, keeps the milk it receives and processes for babies in-house, leaving the Pittsburgh-based milk bank as the only one serving the entire state.
Michael A. Fuoco: email@example.com or 412-263-1968.
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