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Nurse Practitioner Annie Imboden of The Pediatric Group LLC stands next to donated human milk which will be shipped to the Mothers's Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes for pasteurization and distribution to at-risk infants in Illinois and Wisconsin. The Carbondale medical practice is the region's first and only human milk depot.

The region’s first human milk depot is giving at-risk infants much needed nutrition while presenting area moms with an opportunity to help others.

Through a partnership with the Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes, the Pediatric Group LLC is now home to Carbondale’s first human milk depot.

“We’re acting as a milk drop-off site for the Mothers’ Milk Bank,” explained Pediatric Group Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Annie Imboden. “What that means is that mothers who have breast milk that they are not using for their own children are able to drop it off at our office and we are storing it for shipment to the Mothers’ Milk Bank.”

Imboden says the medical practice has a refrigerator dedicated to the storage of the milk, which once received by the Elk Grove Village, Illinois-based not-for-profit, is pasteurized and made available to neonatal intensive care units and other mothers in Wisconsin and Illinois.

The Mothers’ Milk Bank said in a prepared media release that the pasteurized donor human milk is an important nutritional therapy for many NICU babies, providing nutritional and infection-fighting factors in the absence of mother’s milk.

“Because recipients are often premature or otherwise medically fragile, it is especially important that they receive pasteurized breast milk from screened donors. This allows infants to receive many of the powerful immune boosting and protective benefits of breast milk in the safest way possible,” Imboden said.

The Mothers’ Milk Bank pasteurizes the milk to eliminate any viruses and bacteria. After pasteurization, the milk is tested a second time for safety and distributed to hospitals and to private recipients.

Imboden said that discussions are underway with area hospitals to receive deliveries from the Mothers’ Milk Bank.

She explained that the partnership came out of a meeting where one of the owners of Pediatric Group LLC, Dr. Pradeep Reddy, was introduced to a representative of the Mothers’ Milk Bank. He volunteered to offer the office as a collection site, the only one in the region.

“It’s really an untapped need that we are providing,” Imboden said.

She said that mothers who wish to donate milk can contact the milk bank at 847-262-5134 to begin a brief screening process. Once approved, they may drop off donations at the practice’s Carbondale location.

Summer Kelly, Executive Director of Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes, says safety is a primary concern.

“Rigorous safety protocols ensure that pasteurized donor human milk is safe when it’s provided from a milk bank that adheres to guidelines from the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. Potential donors are blood tested and thoroughly screened for communicable diseases, activities that increase the risk of blood-borne diseases, and the use of tobacco, alcohol, and medications. Milk collected from The Pediatric Group’s milk depot will help support the complex nutritional needs of sick and premature babies in Illinois and Wisconsin.”

Imboden added that recipient-mothers can have peace of mind.

“Mother’s milk is for human babies, whereas formula is made from cow’s milk,” Imboden explained. “Breast milk is specifically helpful for infants and meets the needs at each development stage. To infants who need it or two moms who for whatever reason cannot provide it themselves, breast milk is like liquid gold. It is especially important that premature or otherwise medically vulnerable babies whose parents are considering using breast milk receive it from a reliable source like this”

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