You've probably heard about or even you yourself have donated blood to help save the life of others. But what about donating breast milk? this gift of liquid gold is not as far-fetched as you might think and it's helping save the lives of the most vulnerable patients here in Sioux Falls.
They weren't supposed to be here until February 9th, 2013 but brothers Ethan and Evan Schmidt apparently didn't get that memo.
"We thought we were very prepared and that we had everything until the babies wanted to come early!" Said Ryan Schmidt.
The twins were born on December 22nd, 2012, seven weeks before their due date and seven weeks before new mom Dawne, was physically ready to care for them.
"I wanted to breast-feed but since they came early I wasn't able to provide anything for them." Said Dawne Schmidt.
But that doesn't mean these two future Green Bay Packer fans had to settle for formula.
"We at Avera McKennan are excited to be the first hospital in the state to offer pasteurized human breast milk to those babies that are most vulnerable and are going to have the most benefit from it." Said Neonatologist Dr. Justin Sharp.
In the past, Avera McKennan has helped mothers with extra milk donate to the milk bank in Denver, Colorado. But as of December 5th 2012, the hospital can now give the gift of liquid gold to their own patients.
"I was for it from the get-go that's the stuff I wanted my babies to have and I'd rather have them have human milk than anything until they can get mommy's milk." Said Ryan Schmidt.
Research has shown that breast milk is much better for the development of healthy babies, especially those born premature or those who are placed in the NICU. Breast milk is much easier on their already weakened digestive tract and the risk of developing infections and allergies is also much lower.
"All of these things we feel breast milk is better than formula and we're really trying to get into a culture of supporting that first-line." Said Dr. Sharp.
"Health of the babies was the number one concern and still is the number one concern for us and for Ethan and Evan." Said Ryan Schmidt.
Donating breast milk is a lot like donating blood, only the guidelines are much stricter. Donor mothers are screened so no underlying diseases are transferred through the milk. The milk itself is then pasteurized and screened again before it's frozen and shipped. When the milk gets to the hospital it's then tracked and administered just like any other medication
"So there's a very extensive screening process to make sure that the milk that is being given to these especially most vulnerable babies is safe and is going to be beneficial for them." Said Dr. Sharp.
The hospital used more than 600 ounces of donor breast milk in the first month alone. This helped several babies, including Ethan and Evan, get a little extra boost on their road to recovery.
Dawne is now able to produce for her two boys, but with two mouths to feed, she's relieved to know she has plenty of back up if she needs it.
"They just keep growing every day and they're feeding on their own now, each got their own cribs, and we're just excited to get them home." Said Ryan Schmidt.
Avera McKennan gets it's donor milk from milk banks in Iowa City, Iowa and Denver, Colorado. There is a huge demand for donor breast milk nationwide, so hospitals partner with multiple milk banks to ensure they meet their needs. For more information about breast milk donation just call 877-AT-AVERA.