Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center Opens Repository for Donor Breast Milk

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: October 08, 2019 09:44 PM

Breast-feeding can be a challenge for many woman and a Northland mother who had a plentiful supply decided to donate it to the new Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Milk Depot.


Duluth is now one of 14 cities across the state that’s a milk depot, a place where women donate their breast milk. Essentia's Milk Depot opened Tuesday and received a huge donation.

Molly Williams of Saginaw donated 600 ounces of her breast milk to the milk depot. She's a nurse at Essentia's Birthplace and has personally seen the challenges some mothers face with breast-feeding. That’s why she wanted to help. After having her 16-month-old son, Logan, she started storing her breast milk. 

“I’ve seen the gift of breastfeeding be able to help many babies during low blood sugar times or periods of transition in the NICU and the benefit of how it has helped,” said Williams.

Williams understands more than anyone the need there is of breast milk for the most vulnerable babies. She's hoping other women follow her footsteps.

“Some women due to having a c-section or being away from their babies in the beginning can have a hard time getting their milk established,” said Williams. “I was able to pump and save extra milk and right away I knew I wanted to donate it to other moms in need.”

The milk gets sent to the Minnesota Milk Bank in the cities to go through a careful screening process.

“They make sure you don’t have bloodborne illnesses that can be transferred to babies. They do a very comprehensive screening of nutrition during the time you pump, check your pumping practices and storage of milk to make sure the babies are getting the best quality possible,” said Williams.

“It’s tested and pooled with other milk in the state. Then it's heat pasteurized and refrozen and is available for hospitals who wish to order it,” said Jane Johnson, a longtime nurse for Essentia’s NICU. Johnson is also a lactation consultant.

Duluth’s Milk Depot offers a closer location for women in northern Minnesota to help their local community.

“It comes back to Essentia, some of it, to provide for those mothers who have babies in the NICU, the babies who are most vulnerable,” said Pam Galle, a Healthy Northland breastfeeding coordinator and international board certified lactation consultant."60 percent of women don't meet breast-feeding goals and that’s our job to help them reach those goals and make it easier for them to breastfeed," said Galle.

“600 ounces can provide a few months’ worth of donor breast milk for the NICU. It can help 15 to 20 babies for several weeks of feeding,” said Johnson.

Johnson has been at Essentia's NICU for 35 years and knows the important nutritious and life-changing benefits this has for those babies.

“They do better. They get their IV’s out sooner and go home sooner. They can have less life threatening infections,” said Johnson.

Donor requirements include a non-smoking household, the milk has to be stored less than 12 months, the milk must be stored in clean food-grade containers, and women need to plan to donate at least 100 ounces to the milk bank. 

For women interested in donating their breast milk for this effort, call Essentia at 218-786-4477. For additional information, contact the Minnesota Milk Bank at 763-546-8051 or email


Alejandra Palacios

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