JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — One of the most natural food sources is breast milk. Though, not all new moms are able to supply their baby with it.
Naval Hospital Jacksonville is stepping in with a donor milk program to ensure all babies born under their care have the access to the nutrition which only comes from breast milk.
The first batch was delivered mid November and already the hospital says 5 babies have received the donor milk.
Lactation Consultant Rachel Hinckley teaches new moms how to breastfeed. She is also the brains behind the donor milk program.
"(Breast milk) protects the immune system for the baby, but it also helps prevent other things like diabetes, breast cancer in little baby girls, ear infections and respiratory illnesses," Hinckley explained.
If breastfeeding is not an option, she brings in her supply of donated milk. They come in small glass containers like store bought milk.
“It probably tastes the same I would assume to the babies! They’re happy either way," Hinckley said.
These containers were delivered from Mothers Milk Bank of Colorado. The frozen donor milk is helping bridge healthcare gaps.
“When I started here in this position, I saw a couple babies that had to be admitted to our nursery for some medical reasons like low blood sugar," Hinckley explained. "And I thought maybe we can take a more proactive approach and try to prevent those nursery admissions.”
Commanding Officer Captain Sharon House says their program is different than other hospitals because all of their babies, not just the ones in the NICU, have this option available.
"We just want to be able to have this for every patient that needs it that we can give them the best chance at life that anybody can wish for," Capt. House said.
Hinckley wants this to be the step that keeps babies out of the NICU and lowers readmission rates.
Got milk? In the first month, 5 babies are chugging along because of it.
The program provides donor milk to moms and babies for a variety of reasons while they are inpatients.
Hinckley said more than 500 babies were born at the hospital in 2022. She is starting with a small supply of donor milk, but she believes it will last them into summer 2023.
NH Jacksonville serves 175,000 active duty, active duty family members, and retired service members.