Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Vermont Donor Milk Center opens freezer site in Mendon with goal of increasing access to breast milk

Small bottles of beige-colored liquid sit in rows in a freezer.
Vermont Donor Milk Center
Bottles of breast milk sit in rows in a Vermont Donor Milk Center freezer in Essex.

For some families, getting access to breast milk can be a tedious journey — but the Vermont Donor Milk Center is aiming to make breast milk more accessible with the introduction of a new freezer site in Mendon.

The Vermont Donor Milk Center offers pasteurized donor human milk, alongside lactation and postpartum services, to families across Vermont and northern New York. Now, this milk is also available at the freezer unit recently installed at the Promise Breastfeeding clinic.

The center, in a way, acts as a liaison between parents who desire to feed their children breast milk and those who overproduce milk.

“Most parents are pumping today and feeding that fresh breast milk to their babies tomorrow,” said Gillian MacKinnon, a public health nutrition specialist with the Vermont Department of Health. “They might find they have a freezer full of milk that they don't need. And when they hear about donor milk centers being opened in their community, they now know that there's a place where they can bring their milk. It’s going to serve their friends and community members who are delivering in our hospitals who might need access to donor milk.”

Parents can deliver frozen milk to the center, which then sends it to a milk bank, according to Lisa Kerns, an international board certified lactation consultant. The milk is combined with other donations and pasteurized at a safe temperature to kill bacteria and viruses, but it doesn’t completely break down components in the milk.

The milk is prioritized for NICUs and hospitals, but is then distributed to centers like the Vermont Donor Milk Center, where people can buy it.

Breast milk can be attractive to families because of how rich it is with nutrients such as protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, according to a large body of research. But families might be restricted to formula due to a parent’s low milk supply, preterm birth, formula intolerance or maternal health complications. Additionally, families who adopt or choose surrogacy, as well as LGBTQ+ families, might lack access to breast milk.

Using formula as an alternative can change a baby's gut bacteria composition and can change the pattern of digestion and elimination, Kern notes. She said the absence of immune support with formula can also raise the risk of allergies and sensitivity.

“We have hundreds of families here who want to breastfeed their babies and don't want to interrupt their breastfeeding journey with formula supplementation,” Kerns said. “And this is going to be an option for them in their backyard.”

Kerns said that the freezer installed in Mendon is a more accessible option for families who live in areas near Rutland County. They no longer have to make the drive to Burlington or Essex.

“It's really our job as birth workers to reduce any barriers in their goals of breastfeeding their babies,” Kerns said. “And this is going to be one more step to help them be successful in their goal.”

Vermont Department of Health's Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program works closely with centers and clinics like the Vermont Donor Milk Center and Promise Breastfeeding, alongside health care professionals, early childhood educators and child health coordinators to help make resources and education about breastfeeding more accessible.

In 2022, Vermont had the sixth highest rate of parents who had ever breastfed in the country, according to the CDC.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Latest Stories