Area's first human-milk depot opens Tuesday at Florida Hospital

  • Dr. Ariel Cole will be the first woman to donate her breast milk to the Florida Hospital Milk Depot, which opens Tuesday. She looks at a store of milk she has in her refrigerator at home with son Benjamin.
Dr. Ariel Cole will be the first woman to donate her breast milk… (George Skene )
For some babies, the liquid is life saving. Now more will be able to receive human breast milk when the area's first milk depot — a place where nursing moms can drop off donated breast milk for other women's infants — opens Tuesday at Florida Hospital.

The depot will package, deep freeze and ship the donated milk to a milk bank in Denver for processing and distribution to the nation's most at-risk infants. Premature babies who weigh less than 3 pounds, 4 ounces or are born at 29 weeks or younger take priority.

About half of moms who give birth to premature babies aren't able to provide a full supply of breast milk for their babies, said Kim Updegrove, president of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

"Having a preterm baby is a risk factor for having low milk supply," said Kendra Otero, a nurse and lactation consultant at Florida Hospital. "Then again we have some moms who produce an enormous amount."

In Florida,13.5 percent of babies are born premature, and about 12 percent of those infants are in that very low birth-weight category.

"When I heard this [the depot] was available, I was happy to do it," said Dr. Ariel Cole, of Winter Park, who will be the depot's first donor. "I don't think I would have gone through the heroics otherwise," said the busy, part-time physician and mother of two.

The hassle factor deters many moms who already have their hands full.

"It's a labor of love," said Otero, who helps moms in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit. "But having access to a milk depot will allow more women to contribute to a national supply that often runs short."

The depot is the first in Central Florida and the second in the state, said Updegrove. The state's only other depot is in Miami.