‘Making children stronger’: Milk Room provides support for moms at Michigan Medicine
At C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, infants and toddlers often receive the essential care they need during a time when they are still breastfeeding with their mothers.
Fortunately, a committed team of experts is there to ensure mothers can store or fortify their breast milk to be used by children if and when they need it.
“Breast milk is the most natural way for children to get the nutrients and vitamins they need to grow and develop during the first months of their life,” said Sara Tutor, manager of the Milk Room at Mott. “And some patients who are treated in the neonatal intensive care unit or other areas of the hospital may not be able to breastfeed directly with their mothers. We’re here to help them.”
In honor of World Breastfeeding Awareness Week, here’s an inside look at the Milk Room and the important services it provides to patients and families.
The Milk Room is a 24/7 operation that serves as a centralized, sanitary environment to freeze and store breast milk for inpatients at Mott. It is run by Patient Food & Nutrition Services and is located near the NICU on the 8th floor of Mott.
Parents or caregivers can drop off milk at any time of the day, where it is then tracked and, if necessary, fortified with any extra nutrients a child may need. Experts can even skim the breast milk for certain infants, making it possible for those patients to continue feedings of breast milk during treatment.
The milk is then delivered directly to a patient’s bedside refrigerator.
“Believe it or not, when our facility opened in 2011, to our knowledge it was the first breast milk preparation room to be fully staffed 24 hours a day in a pediatric hospital,” said Tutor. Today, the room is home to 15 dietetic technicians who have been specially trained to work with breast milk and other nutrient-rich formulas — some of which are not utilized by children at all.
“If we have adult patients who need supplements such as Ensure, those orders come through the Milk Room, as well,” Tutor said. “Our main goal is to make sure that patients — no matter their age — get the nutrients that they need to heal.”
The Milk Room’s opening in 2011 coincided with the opening of the brand-new C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital.
“In the old hospital, a formula room was open for only 10 hours a day and our nurses handled all of the breast milk,” Tutor said. “The planning team wanted to create a sanitary, dedicated space for preparing feedings and also take some of those responsibilities away from the nurses so they could focus on providing ideal bedside care to all of their patients.”
Indeed, the room’s lean operations and best practices have become the industry standard and the Milk Room now serves as a training ground for other pediatric hospitals across the country. In response, Michigan Medicine has set up a practicum where other health systems and hospitals visit to see how the vital work is performed.
“We’ve had 15-20 groups come in the past few years,” Tutor said. “We’re just happy to help our patients, and if other hospitals can follow our lead, it means we’re making even more of an impact nationwide.”
An inspiring role
Milk Room experts serve more than 50 percent of the inpatient population during their stay at Mott.
“We do a lot of technical work behind the scenes, working with breast milk and formula,” Tutor said. “But we also see a lot of parents, either when they’re dropping off milk or retrieving it upon discharge. So we know how important our services are — we’re making children stronger and putting them in the best position to succeed.”
And the experience the team gets often inspires them to continue on their career journey at Michigan Medicine.
“Many of our technicians are dedicated to their role in the Milk Room and serve as an excellent resource to our team, and others have gone on to become nurses or dietitians or physician assistants,” Tutor said. “That’s because we all just want to help people — whether here in the Milk Room or in areas across Michigan Medicine.”
Michigan Medicine provides resources for faculty and staff who are breastfeeding. Click here to learn more about lactation rooms, pump rentals and other important information.