By Rodney Jackson, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center Public Affairs
FORT CAVAZOS, Texas – The Fort Cavazos Women, Infant, and Children’s clinic celebrated world breastfeeding month with the grand opening of the Fort Cavazos Milk Depot Aug. 23.
According to the WIC office, this is the first, currently the only, military human milk collection site, which is truly worth celebrating.
The depot will work in conjunction with the Milk Bank of Austin that since October 2022 – when it started counting – has collected over 19,000 ounces and that amount has helped feed over 6,000 at-risk and sick infants across the United States.
The Milk Bank of Austin officially opened in 1999, has provided 60,000 babies in the U.S. with human milk, and mothers from the Fort Cavazos community have supported the need of human milk’s benefits and availability for infants by driving there to donate.
The Fort Cavazos Milk Depot will be a closer and more convenient place to donate.
“(Donating) has definitely been worth it,” said Grace Wolford, spouse of Spc. Devin Dennis, 1 Cav. Div., with son Azreal. “The process is super simple with only an interview and a blood test, and you drop off whenever you can.”
Wolford’s cousin’s son was born very premature and needed donor milk.
“I’m just glad he was able to have that resource, because it would have broken my heart if he hadn’t,” she said. “It’s really important what we donors do, and if I’m able to do it again I absolutely will, 100 percent.”
Although the milk will be processed at the Milk Bank of Austin prior to its availability, the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical center, located directly across the street from the new milk depot, has received donated milk for infants delivered there.
It’s NICU receives milk from the Austin Milk Bank and utilizes the milk to help prevent disease related to prematurity or as a supplement while the mother’s own milk is being established according to Maj. Matthew Nestander, chief of Inpatient Pediatrics and NICU Medical Director, CRDAMC.
“The donations are a real benefit for the mothers and infants that deliver at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center on Fort Cavazos,” said Nestander. “The milk is used both in a routine Mother-Baby Unit and more frequently in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.”
Our NICU averages 150 to 200 annual admissions, with each infant benefitting from the availability of donor breast milk, he added.
A NICU is a nursery in a hospital that provides around-the-clock care to sick or preterm babies. It has health care providers who have special training and equipment to give babies the best possible care.
“Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin, the world’s leading nonprofit milk bank, is honored to partner with Fort Cavazos to support babies’ needs for human milk by opening a milk depot,” said Kim Updegrove, director, Milk Bank of Austin. “Healthy lactating women who pass the screening to become milk donors will be able to conveniently drop off their donated milk in their community.”
Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin provides pasteurized donor human milk to babies in 180 NICUs across the country, and to more than 500 babies in communities, and this depot is the first ever military base depot – a true win for the women in the community and for the babies in need, she added.
Mothers who wish to become registered donors can visit the Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin website www.Milkbank.org or call 512-494-0800 to complete the process of become a donor.
The Fort Cavazos WIC office also offers nutritional education, supplemental foods, breastfeeding education support and promotion, and community referrals. For more information visit www.TexasWIC.org or call 254-532-9800.