Utah’s Two Major Healthcare Systems Come Together to Help Provide Breast Milk for Tiniest, Premature Babies

The Mountain West Mothers' Milk Bank collects breast milk to help premature babies in the hospital grow stronger.

Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health are generously giving $500,000 over the coming year to Mountain West Mothers’ Milk Bank in Founding Sponsor donations to provide core funding to help the organization fulfill its mission of promoting infant health and nutrition by screening, processing, and dispensing donor human milk. Each healthcare system is donating a total of $250,000.

Mountain West Mothers’ Milk Bank (MWMMB), a nonprofit organization, has donor collection sites established in Utah and Idaho to collect donated milk. Collected milk is currently sent to the nearest nonprofit human milk bank, Mothers’ Milk Bank (a program of Rocky Mountain Children’s Health Foundation) in Denver, Colorado, for processing and distribution.

Mountain West Mothers’ Milk Bank is only months away from becoming a fully-operational milk bank in Utah, which will allow the organization to better serve all hospital newborn intensive care units throughout the region.

The Founding Sponsor funding from Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health support MWMMB's move into a new, larger facility, as well as for a facility buildout, equipment, and operational support to conduct human milk pasteurization and milk distribution here in our region. The organization’s target is to be moved in and have pasteurization up and running by mid-summer of 2019.

“Intermountain Healthcare is proud to be a Founding Sponsor of the Mountain West Mothers’ Milk Bank. Our donation will help the milk bank work toward their goal to take the human breast milk already collected at Intermountain donor sites throughout Utah and be able to pasteurize and test it locally to ensure quality and safe milk is available for newborn ICU infants,” said Jean Millar, executive clinical director of the Intermountain Healthcare Women and Newborn Clinical Program. “When the milk bank has the capability to pasteurize milk right here in Utah, we’ll be able to more quickly provide the locally collected and processed milk to newborns in need throughout our state and in Idaho.”

“University of Utah Health has been serving NICU patients and their families for the past 50 years, and we are thrilled to continue this legacy through our founding sponsor donation to the Mountain West Mothers’ Milk Bank," said Gordon Crabtree, CEO, University of Utah Hospital and Clinics. “As soon as our leadership team heard about the initiative, we knew immediately that it was something we needed to help implement within our community. Along with Intermountain Healthcare, we look forward to streamlining the process of providing life-saving mother’s milk to the infants who need it most."

“Mountain West Mothers’ Milk Bank is fortunate to benefit from having two large healthcare organizations that are both leaders in the field and collaborators to benefit the community,” said Elizabeth Smith, MWMMB board chair. “By having both major health care organizations coming together and supporting the milk bank, there will be a synergistic effect in our ability to collect donations and provide milk for premature infants.”

What is the role of a milk bank?

Only 30 percent of newborn ICU mothers can supply enough milk for their premature infant. Milk banks are there to support the other 70 percent who either cannot express any milk or express quantities too low for infant sustainability. Milk banks screen high producing donors, collect, pasteurize, and then test the milk to assure quality and safety for newborn ICU infants. They then send the pasteurized  milk to newborn intensive care units and special care nurseries for infants in need. Milk banks also work to increase breastfeeding rates, advocate for nursing mothers, to increase the supply of donor milk, and as nonprofit businesses, keep costs as low as possible.

An exclusive human milk diet allows preterm infants to tolerate and advance to full feedings faster, go home sooner, and experience fewer complications. In addition, a major life-threatening complication experienced by pre-term babies, necrotizing enterocolitis, may be reduced by almost 80 percent. Use of donor human milk rather than formula to supplement premature infants’ diets can thus be life-saving.

For additional Information visit https://www.giveyourmilk.org or call the toll free donor contact number: 1-877-367-9091 or email info@giveyourmilk.org. Join MWMMB and follow the organization’s activities on social media at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


The Mountain West Mother's Milk Bank received a donation of $500,000 from Intermountain Healthcare and the U of U Health to help premature babies in Utah.