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Keeping newborns healthier

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IN MOTHER’S ARMS: New mom Tyanne Bockover holds her newborn son Laine Bockover. Laine was born premature and is the first-ever recipient of milk from Marion General Hospital’s new donation-based lactation program.
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A COZY NAP: Laine Bockover, who was born premature, lays on his mother’s lap and enjoys a nap. Now two weeks old, he’s back to a healthy birthweight thanks to a new breast milk program.

By Clay Winowiecki - cwinowiecki@chronicle-tribune.com

A new donation-based lactation program is helping newborns becomes stronger, and ultimately, providing them a healthier life well into adulthood.

The two week-old program is the first of its kind in Grant County and is spearheaded by Marion General Hospital. The goal of the program is to allow moms who are unable to produce milk to provide nutrient-rich breast milk to their newborns, rather than relying on cow milk or formula.

Babies who receive human milk versus formula get a leg up, health-wise.

“Formula is synthetic, it’s something we make,” said Gail Elbert, administrative director of Maternal, Child and Great Beginnings and the Family Birthing Center at MGH. “Breast milk is a living thing and is able to engulf organisms that make your baby sick. Even pasteurized milk is better for babies than formula will ever be.”

There’s a real need for donated breast milk, too. MGH has a Level 2 nursery, meaning they deliver babies 32 weeks and older. At times, babies who are born premature need a higher level of nutrition than mom is able to produce early on.

For new mom Tyanne Bockover, the donated milk has been a blessing. Her son, Laine Bockover, was born on April 24th, more than four weeks before his expected birth on May 31.

Bockover was the first-ever recipient of MGH’s new program and found out about it thanks to the hospital’s lactation consultants.

“They asked me if I was interested in receiving the donor milk until mine came in because he had a feeding tube and he needed a higher protein and fat calorie intake than what I could produce at the time,” Bockover said. “I’m glad that he was able to get that while he was in such ill condition.”

Now two weeks old, he is already back to a healthy birth weight, he’s home and he’s able to nurse a few times each day, according to Jamie Walker, a registered nurse and certified lactation counselor at MGH.

Due to the new milk, he wasn’t on formula long.

“Having the donor milk helped us achieve our (health) goals,” Bockover said.

According to Walker, a mother’s medical conditions can also impact lactation, causing her to struggle with what is otherwise a normal process. The donation program allows mothers who cannot breastfeed the chance to provide their children with health advantages of breast milk. 

Babies who are given breast milk are less likely to have Crohn’s disease, allergies, eczema and lymphoma along with other types of childhood cancers, Elbert said.

According to Elbert, there’s a big interest in the new program.

“Our nursery goes through waves where we may not have any babies or moms sick, but this week we had six,” Elbert said. “It’s important that we have this as an opportunity to provide the best health (for newborns).”

And with advancements in health programs, MGH is now able to keep sicker babies that would otherwise need to be transferred to Fort Wayne or Indianapolis.

Mothers who have an abundance of milk and are looking to help moms in need can donate their milk at themilkbank.org.

The process is free and the organization takes care of shipping and packaging. Elbert expects MGH to have its own donation site by the end of the year.

According to Elbert, good health begins with breastfeeding and she wants to encourage women in the community to commit to it.

To destigmatize breastfeeding, MGH will offer lactation stations where women can breastfeed in private at community events such as the Grant County 4-H Fair this summer.

Moms can also bring their babies to MGH for free follow ups, which include weight checks, proper breast latching by the newborn and ensuring milestones are met.

In an effort to promote healthy moms and healthy babies, MGH also has a community group for new moms on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the MGH South Marion Medical Park located at 1410 Bella Drive. The program is designed for making new friends, having questions answered and enjoying snacks.