New breast milk depot opens for donations in Knoxville

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A baby's cry is one Knoxville mother Emily Ruoti knows well. She's a mother of three children. She breastfed each one.

"I was happy to be able to do that," she said.

Breast milk is something babies in an intensive care unit didn't always have available. Doctors, like Susan Campbell, MD IBCLC, said in some cases a lack of milk was even the reason for deadly diseases like Necrotizing Enterocolitis.

"It tugs on my heartstrings and then some. It's very difficult for me to hear," Ruoti said. It's one reason she donates her breast milk.

Donations are now easier with Knoxville's first breast milk depot, which is the ninth to open across Tennessee. Nursing mothers can drop donations off there, they get shipped to Austin, TX, for pasteurizing, and eventually end up in a NICU.

"[The depot] just makes it so much more convenient for her," Dr. Campbell said. She worked in the NICU for more than 30 years where babies often had trouble feeding. She said studies dating back to 2010 show breast milk can save some of those lives. Dr. Campbell has since helped open nine depots across the state under Mothers' Milk Bank TN which is part of Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

Mothers breastfeeding infants under one-year-old are eligible to be screened to become donors. They do it on their own time. The breast milk is eventually shipped to Austin, Texas, but Dr. Campbell soon hopes to open a pasteurizing facility in Middle Tennessee to serve the state.

You can learn more about donating here.

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