Local mother donates over 100 ounces of life-saving breast milk to milk bank

August is National Breastfeeding Month and one young mother in the Pee Dee has been helping premature infants that need the highly nutritious breast milk through a generous donation to the Mother’s Milk Bank.

Traci Skaris of Hartsville is currently breastfeeding her second child, daughter Reagan, and has been donating extra breast milk to the Mother’s Milk Bank of SC in Charleston via the satellite depot at Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center.

Skaris delivered both of her children at Carolina Pines. Son Aiden was born in 2014 and Reagan was born in March of 2018.

“After a month, I started pumping to store up for work,” said Skaris, a teacher at Hartsville High School. “Because I make a good amount of milk, our freezer got kind of full. I told my husband that maybe I should help donate to the Milk Bank. You don’t want that liquid gold to go to waste. I hated throwing it out with my first baby.”

“Having been a NICU nurse in the early part of my nursing career I am very grateful to, and in awe of, moms like Traci who are willing and able to donate their excess breast milk to improve the outcomes of fragile very premature infants,” said Holly Prescott RN BSN, the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) for Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center.

The Milk Bank depository was opened at Carolina Pines two years ago and it was through that initial story that Skaris heard about the program. Her donation on August 17th was her largest donation of 111 ounces. The Mother’s Milk Bank of SC sends all the supplies needed to her home.

She then brings the frozen milk to the hospital labeled with an assigned ID to be stored in the depot freezer. Once the Milk Bank is notified of the donation, they send a cooler to the hospital that is sent back to Charleston. “They make it very easy,” Skaris said.

Benefits of Breast Milk to Premature and Full-Term Infants

Holly Prescott RN BSN serves as International Board Certified Lactation Consultant for Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center. An IBCLC is a healthcare professional that specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding. This includes teaching families about the benefits of breastfeeding, how to get the best start, supporting a family’s feeding goals in the hospital and after discharge, working through breastfeeding challenges, teaching staff how to support breastfeeding mothers, staying up to date on evidence-based practices through continuing education and being a lactation resource for local healthcare providers.

Each year, 800 very low birth-weight babies (infants born weighing less than 3.3 pounds) are born in South Carolina. When babies are born prematurely, many of their organs are not fully developed. This puts them at risk for a number of diseases within the first weeks of life. Many of these diseases can be prevented by making sure these babies receive the antibodies and nutrients found in human breast milk. Often, the stress of having a sick newborn can make producing breast milk difficult for many of these new moms. Unfortunately, donated human milk is in short supply. That’s where moms who produce excess milk can help. Donations are accepted at satellite depot sites throughout the state, such as the one at Carolina Pines, frozen and then shipped to the Mother’s Milk Bank of SC in Charleston. Donation starts with a 15-minute phone screen directly with the Milk Bank. The screening is very similar to blood donation screening.

What is it in human milk that keeps babies healthier than artificial milk?

• Research in the field of human milk has exploded! There are amazing long-term health benefits for sick infants and, of course, for healthy babies and their mothers. Research has found that 820,000 children’s lives and billions of healthcare dollars could be saved globally if human babies were all fed human milk! Yet, only 40 percent of newborns are breastfed.

• Babies who receive human milk have fewer infections, especially gastrointestinal and respiratory, and lower rates of obesity, Type II diabetes and allergies.

• Premature infants receiving mother’s milk have a much lower incidence of a life threatening intestinal illness, called NEC, gain weight faster and spend less time in the hospital.

• Mothers who choose to breastfeed have lower rates of postpartum hemorrhage, obesity, and breast and ovarian cancers.

• Colostrum is the small volume but high-quality milk a baby gets in the first couple of days of life before a mother’s higher volume “mature milk” comes in between day 3 and 5. It is made specifically for a newborn’s tiny tummy at birth. Colostrum is full of antibodies that prime a baby’s gut and help fight off infections until their own immune system kicks in.

• Human milk is often called White Blood. You may have heard the term “human microbiome” in the news recently. Researchers are finding that too few good bacteria and far too many bad bacteria in the gut leads to many diseases of children and adults. Newborns get their good bacteria naturally from the birth canal, lying on their mother’s skin soon after birth (called “skin to skin” time) and breast milk. This helps stimulate the immune system to grow. Overuse of antibiotics, caesarian sections and the low rate of breastfeeding affect this delicate balance.

For more information about the Mother’s Milk Bank of South Carolina and how you can help, visit www.scmilkbank.org or call Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center nursery 843-339-4369 and ask to speak with the lactation consultant about milk donation, breastfeeding classes or other breastfeeding questions.

Author: Rachel Howell

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