Health Department premieres milk bank drop-off

By Aimee Hancock -

Chris Smith, RN, Columbus, explains the Milk Bank program to interested mothers and friends.

Chris Smith, RN, Columbus, explains the Milk Bank program to interested mothers and friends.

Steve Egbert | Sidney Daily News

SIDNEY — The Sidney-Shelby County Health Department hosted an event on Thursday in celebration of becoming an OhioHealth Mothers’ Milk Bank drop-off location.

“Local mothers who want to donate breast milk to preterm babies go through the OhioHealth Mothers’ Milk Bank, so we’re a new collection site for that,” said SSCHD Public Health Nurse and WIC Lactation Consultant Shannon Nagel.

“Our drive for this comes from having several moms asking about it. The process currently involves driving the milk to Dayton Children’s or shipping it yourself; all of this is paid for, but for mom’s, that’s just another step. We decided to open the milk drop site so it can be convenient for mothers.”

Based out of Columbus, the OhioHealth Mothers’ Milk Bank was created in 2005 and is now run by a staff of just four OhioHealth employees: two nurses/lactation consultants, and two milk technicians in charge of pasteurization.

OhioHealth’s Chris Smith, RN, IBCLC, one of the milk bank nurses, spoke briefly at Thursday’s event.

“Prior to working with OhioHealth, I was a lactation consultant in the NICU at Nationwide Children’s in Columbus,” Smith said. “I started the lactation program there in 2001, and my passion is really the NICU babies.”

After being contacted by another local lactation consultant, Smith wrote a policy regarding the provision of donated breast milk to babies within NICUs under the Nationwide Children’s umbrella, which was approved through the policy committee.

According to Smith, milk was purchased from a milk bank in Texas to provide to babies in Columbus. In 2005, it was determined that demand was high enough to necessitate the opening of a local milk bank at Grant Medical Center.

It is one of just 27 milk banks in North America — 24 in the United States and 3 in Canada.

“We are shipping milk to about 74 hospitals in 14 states and Canada,” Smith said. “We go as far east as Vermont, as far south as Atlanta, as far north as Canada, and as far west as St. Louis.”

Smith said that over the last three years, the average number of ounces shipped out from the OhioHealth Mothers’ Milk Bank is between 285,000 and 300,000 annually.

Within the first four months of this year, she said, the bank dispensed over $113,000 ounces.

As for donors, there is a three-step screening process, which includes a 10-minute phone interview to discuss lifestyle and travel history, followed by a written health history questionnaire, and finally lab work to test for blood-borne pathogens.

“Once approved, we do ask for a commitment of donating at least 150 ounces over the six months that the labs are good for to help us defray the cost of the lab work,” Smith said.

The Sidney location is the Mothers’ Milk Bank’s sixth drop-off depot.

“We’re trying to get the word out,” Smith said. “There are a lot of moms within the community who have milk that they can share, and a lot of them don’t know what to do with it.

“We’re very appreciative of our donors,” she continued. “We know they’re giving out of the goodness of their hearts because there is so compensation for donors.”

Ninety-five percent of the donated milk that goes to hospitals will benefit NICU babies, while the remaining three to five percent will benefit those outpatient, including many ex-NICU babies.

Due to the costs associated with collecting, processing, and distributing, there is a fee associated with receiving the donated milk. However, Smith explained that for inpatients, this cost is likely to be covered by insurance or by the hospital, as part of room charges.

As for outpatients, Smith said, there is a precedent of Ohio Medicaid covering the cost in the event of proven medical necessity, along with prior authorization.

Qualifying medical necessities include cardiac anomalies, failure to thrive, and intolerance of formula, among others.

Smith added that with some donated discretionary funds, the milk bank is able to donate two boxes-worth of milk to qualifying mothers each month.

Mary Fessner-Tarjanyi, a mother of four, attended the opening event at the health department Thursday.

“I’m one of the lactation consultants at Wilson Health, so I came out to support the efforts,” Fessner-Tarjanyi said.

“This is really a great resource for the moms, especially with babies in the NICU. One of the big risks for NICU babies is necrotizing enterocolitis, which can be life-threatening. Breast milk is very protective against that, so it’s really fantastic that we have this here.”

For more information or to donate, contact the OhioHealth Mothers’ Milk Bank by phone, at 614-566-0630, or by email, at; or contact Shannon Nagel at the Sidney-Shelby County Health Department by phone, at 498-4637, or email

Chris Smith, RN, Columbus, explains the Milk Bank program to interested mothers and friends. Smith, RN, Columbus, explains the Milk Bank program to interested mothers and friends. Steve Egbert | Sidney Daily News

By Aimee Hancock

Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.