How ÓMMB is Saving Lives of Premature Babies with Donor Milk

ÓMMB, which stands for the Oklahoma Mothers’ Milk Bank, is a non-profit organization based in Oklahoma City that collects, pasteurizes, and dispenses donor human milk to babies in need across the state of Oklahoma and beyond. As a member of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), follow strict guidelines and protocols to ensure the safety, quality, and accessibility of donor milk for vulnerable infants and children.

Importance of donor milk banks

Donor milk from banks like ÓMMB is critically essential for babies without access to their mother’s milk. This includes preterm babies in the NICU, babies whose mothers are unable to produce sufficient milk, and infants with health conditions that require human milk. Feeding donor milk can promote better health outcomes, reduce severe complications like necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), and save babies’ lives. Donor milk banks are a vital resource providing this precious nutrition source.

History of ÓMMB

Founding and early years

ÓMMB was founded in 2012 by a determined group of nurses, doctors, and lactation consultants who saw the immense need for donor milk access in Oklahoma. They worked tirelessly to open Oklahoma’s first donor milk bank, starting with just a few local hospital partners and processing only a couple hundred ounces of milk a month. Through word of mouth, community engagement, and awareness-raising, ÓMMB started to steadily grow.

Expansion and growth

Over the past decade, ÓMMB has expanded significantly, now partnering with over 20 NICUs and hospital systems. They have recruited more milk donors, increased their processing capacity, and distributed over 200,000 ounces of pasteurized donor milk to date. From humble beginnings, It has become a crucial milk resource for thousands of Oklahoma babies and families. Their impact continues to broaden through new partnerships, donors, and processing innovations.

How ÓMMB Works

Donor screening and milk collection

ÓMMB follows rigorous protocols to screen milk donors and collect milk. Donors complete health questionnaires and blood tests to ensure they don’t have communicable diseases and are taking any medications that would be unsafe for babies. Approved donors pump milk in their own homes following hygienic techniques, then freeze and ship the milk to ÓMMB in ready-to-use containers.

Processing and pasteurization

Once received, logs, tracks, and analyzes each milk donation, verifying it is safe for consumption. The milk is thawed and pooled to create consistent batches. It undergoes Holder pasteurization, where it is heated to destroy pathogens but retains important immunological properties. After pasteurization, the milk is bottled, labeled, and stored frozen until distribution.

Distribution and feeding

ÓMMB distributes pasteurized donor milk to NICUs and hospitals based on need. Close tracking ensures no milk goes to waste. Families do not pay for the milk if it is fed while the baby is inpatient. Babies consuming the milk are monitored to watch for potential allergic reactions or intolerance. Outpatient families may also receive donor milk but often pay a fee based on ability.

Impact and Reach

Babies served

Since 2012, ÓMMB has provided pasteurized donor milk to over 5,000 fragile babies across the state of Oklahoma. Many of these infants would not have access to human milk without ÓMMB’s services. For babies born premature, critically ill, or with gastrointestinal disorders, this access is invaluable and provides essential nutrition and immune factors to support their growth and healing.

Partner hospitals

ÓMMB has grown from just 3 initial hospital partners to now working with over 20 NICUs and hospital systems across Oklahoma. Top partners include OU Children’s Hospital, Mercy Hospital, Integris, and Hillcrest Hospital, where NICU babies get priority for milk. Expanding partnerships is key to ÓMMB’s mission.

Research efforts

In addition to clinical milk provision, ÓMMB contributes to research on the impacts of donor milk on vulnerable babies. They assist studies analyzing how microbes in milk influence the infant gut microbiome and immune system. This research clarifies the biological mechanisms of milk benefits and advances scientific knowledge in this field.

Challenges Facing

Limited donor milk supply

One major challenge is recruiting enough donor milk to meet demands, which far outstrip the current supply. Eligible donors represent only a fraction of nursing mothers. It continually spreads awareness about donating with social media campaigns, hospital engagement, and community partnerships. But each year, they must turn away recipient babies due to inadequate milk.

Funding and resources

As a non-profit, ÓMMB relies heavily on grants, donations, and fundraising to finance its operations. Money is needed for supplies, equipment, facilities, staff, and other costs. Limited funding strains their ability to increase capacity. Securing ongoing financial support and investments remains central to its growth.

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Raising awareness

Many people are unaware of milk banking and its purpose. There is a constant need to educate hospitals, mothers, and the wider public about their services through outreach, materials, and PR campaigns. Overcoming misconceptions and spreading information on their impact is an ongoing pursuit.

The Future of ÓMMB

Increasing donors and milk supply

A top priority is recruiting more milk donors by promoting breast milk donation as a way to help fragile babies. Creative incentives, targeted outreach, and strategic partnerships will help drive more awareness and donors. This will allow it to expand its reserves and reach more infants in need.

Expanding services and partnerships

ÓMMB aims to keep forming partnerships with additional NICUs, hospitals, and health systems to extend their provision of donor milk across Oklahoma. They also hope to offer more lactation support services for families navigating breastfeeding challenges.

Innovation and technology

Advances in pasteurization techniques, storage solutions, and analytical testing will allow us to improve quality, safety, and efficiency. Emerging technologies like blockchain platforms may enhance chain-of-custody tracking from pumping to distribution.


Importance of supporting ÓMMB

It fills a critical need in Oklahoma, providing pasteurized donor human milk to save lives and support the health of fragile newborns and babies across the state. As a non-profit relying on grants and donations, community support is vital to help advance its services and extend its reach.

Ways to get involved

There are many ways to support the valuable efforts of ÓMMB – donate funds, volunteer time, spread awareness, contact elected officials, tour their facility, follow social media, host a fundraiser event, and of course, donate breast milk if eligible. Supporting means giving babies in need a fighting chance.


Who can donate breast milk to ÓMMB?

Healthy lactating mothers who pass screening can donate milk. You must be in good health, non-smoking, taking no harmful medications, and willing to undergo blood tests. Sharing your excess pumped milk helps nourish sick babies.

Is the donor milk safe?

Yes, ÓMMB follows rigorous standards for screening donors, collecting milk, and pasteurizing milk to destroy pathogens. The milk is handled safely and ethically to ensure it is suitable for fragile babies.

How is the milk distributed?

ÓMMB distributes pasteurized donor milk to NICUs and hospitals based on need and availability. Inpatient babies get priority access. Outpatient families may also receive milk but often pay a fee.

What is pasteurization and why is it important?

Pasteurization uses heat to destroy potentially dangerous bacteria and viruses in donor milk while preserving beneficial immune components. This makes the milk safe for medically fragile infants.

How can I support ÓMMB’s work?

You can volunteer, host a fundraiser, make financial donations, follow their social media, spread awareness about their mission, write elected officials, or recruit mothers to donate their extra breast milk. Support is vital for this life-saving organization.

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