New law creates Arkansas’ first breast milk bank for at-risk infants

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The infant mortality rate in Arkansas is higher than most other state’s in the country, but a new law recently passed has the potential to help lower those numbers.

A new law on the books is dedicated to helping premature babies and babies with complex medical problems, creating a breast milk bank on the campus of UAMS Little Rock. 

“The goal is to be able to use this donor milk to feed our babies in Arkansas who are the most vulnerable,” said Dr. Misty Virmani of UAMS. 

This means healthy moms who want to donate extra breast milk can, knowing it’ll go to Arkansas babies who need it most. 

Dr. Virmani says right now, Arkansas sends a lot of money out of state to get donor milk. 

“The milk banks in those states prioritize their own state’s needs first,” Dr. Virmani said. “And we want to make sure that the milk that our mothers are donating for the babies in Arkansas gets to stay in Arkansas and benefit the babies all around the state.” 

Since the closest breast milk bank we have is in Fort Worth, Texas, Arkansas moms have been turning to social media to find breast milk donations. 

“Currently, there are trading groups, people donate to them and you  might get someone’s milk that you don’t know and you don’t know anything about them,” said lactation consultant and president of the Arkansas Breastfeeding Coalition Lucy Towbin. 

“And they have different levels of caution, but none of them are as good as a milk bank,” Towbin added. 

Dr. Virmani ensures the milk at the bank will be safe. 

“That donated milk is seperately screened for infectious diseases and drugs and contamination,” Virmani said. 

They also go a step further and pasteurize the milk to make it safe for premature babies.  

While the breast milk bank will be housed at UAMS Little Rock, the donations will be used statewide. 

UAMS says they’re already getting the ball rolling on creating the milk bank. They say the funding should come through around the first of July. 

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