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'A network of motherhood': Formula shortage drives St. Louis milk donations

The Milk Bank says they've seen some patient categories increase by as much as 200% during the formula shortage.

ST. LOUIS — Cardinal Glennon hospital is used to special deliveries in the maternity ward but Tuesday afternoon, they happened in the lobby.

Some moms are dropping off breast milk. Others get signed up and go through their screening to become donors.

Lauren Duncan with The Milk Bank greets them at the door with a cheerful "Thanks so much for coming" and a smile.

Theresa Cole brought 9-month-old Louise on her hip to begin the screening process which involves a health questionnaire, some blood work, and testing.

"She has what she needs for now," she said motioning to the happy infant in her arms. "You know, the formula shortage is very hard and we can all do a little bit to help that every mom is able to feed their baby good, nutritious food."

Organizers say they're seeing more people, like Cole, step up to help.

"We have a huge donor base here in St. Louis," Cardinal Glennon Lactation Consultant Melissa Leibhart said, "a lot of generous moms."

The Milk Bank said they've seen some patient categories increase by as much as 200% during the formula shortage.

"It is overwhelming in the best way possible," Duncan said, a mother herself. "It's really truly heartwarming to see these moms just coming out in droves wanting to help other moms during this crisis."

Cardinal Glennon is what's called a 'milk depot,' taking the donations and storing them until they can be sent to The Milk Bank in Indianapolis. 

There, the process is similar to blood donations where multiple donations are combined into a batch. They're pasteurized, tested, and sent out for distribution, where Leibhart says it "comes full circle."

Leibhart said the smallest preemies at Cardinal Glennon can only take donor milk, and some NICU moms are now coming back to become milk bank donors.

"It's nice to know that all moms are kind of connected by a network of motherhood, and we all have the same love and care for our children," Cole said. "Just knowing that we can all help take care of each other and make sure that we are all looking out for babies and other moms is meaningful to us."

To sign up to donate milk, visit TheMilkBank.org.

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