A new group is issuing a call for human milk donors in McLean County.
The first milk depot is opening at the health department in Bloomington next week.
Pre-screened lactating women can donate excess breast milk to help medically fragile babies.
Tammy Brooks supervises the Women Infants and Children or WIC program. Brooks said this project is more than a public health initiative.
"Breast feeding has so many benefits to babies and moms. We want to let people know that we are here to support breast feeding. We have breast feeding education," said Brooks.
Brooks said increased support for the breastfeeding community would have a positive impact on the county. She said access to human milk could be life saving for infants born prematurely.
"There are lots of risk factors for premature infants. Providing them with human milk is a way to combat some of those risk factors as well as provide them with some future immunities," said Brooks.
There are 23 operating not for profit milk banks in the United States and Canada. The Mothers' Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes noted the earliest dates to 1911, created in Boston to help babies survive the "summer sickness" to which many children succumbed. The diarrheal disease caused by contaminated water and milk was a significant driver of infant mortality.
Nationwide guidelines for human milk collection, pasteurizing, and distribution began in 1985.
There are also not for profit milk banks in McDonough County in Western, Illinois and in the Chicago area, which opened nearly a year ago. A Facebook group promoting milk sharing operates in the Peoria area. And several for-profit milk banks have opened in the U.S. in recent years.
Women interested in becoming milk donors should call Mothers' Milk Bank Western Great Lakes at (847) 262-5134 for an initial phone screening. The entire screening process takes about 2-3 weeks. Once approved, donors receive a donor number and can begin to drop off milk at the McLean County Milk Depot, according to the Health Department.
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