GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. (KMSP) - A new bank opening in Minnesota will be the first of its kind in the state. Instead of vaults of cash, the bank will hold something else of value: breast milk.
In a nondescript lab in Golden Valley are freezers waiting to be filled with milk.
"We will hope to have this all filled with human milk for our babies here in Minnesota," said Jill Lindquist, co-founder of Minnesota Milk Bank for Babies.
Breast milk is indisputably considered a vital source of nutrition for newborn babies and especially in Neonatal Intensive Care Units, it's in high demand.
"A lot of times moms, when you have a preemie baby, it can take longer for your milk to come in and sometimes they don’t have enough, and that’s where that donor milk can be a bridge," said Lindquist.
While there are donation drop-offs at hospitals across the state, Lindquist says those donations are shipped out of state to be processed. This will be the first location in Minnesota to pasteurize, store and distribute milk.
Currently, the closest milk banks to Minnesota are in Iowa and Illinois.
"It comes on dry ice overnight and it’s FedEx'd,” she said. “So it can be hundreds of dollars and, of course, the farther you are from your milk bank, the more costly it is."
Currently, in the United States less than 50 percent of states have an active milk bank.
As a nurse and lactation specialist at a metro hospital, Lindquist experienced firsthand the struggle and cost associated with getting milk from out of state. Six years ago, she and a former colleague decided to start the Minnesota Milk Bank for Babies.
"Every baby deserves to have that," said Lindquist. “Every time that baby gets a feeding, they’re getting all the mother’s antibodies in there.”
Monetary donations have helped get the milk bank off the ground. Their largest donor, the Abbott Northwestern Foundation, donated $100,000.
But Lindquist says the true heroes are the moms who give their milk.
"A lot of times we get moms who donate because their baby has received donor milk when they were in the hospital and so they’re pumping to honor those who did it for them," said Lindquist. “There’s no money exchanged. We don’t pay for anything. They just pump to save lives.”
The Minnesota Milk Bank for Babies plans to open in the first quarter of 2019.
While they still need $150,000 to become operational, once open they say the business will fund itself.
If you would like to become a milk donor or donate money, you can visit the Minnesota Milk Bank for Babies website.