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Breast milk is best and that s especially true for fragile premature babies who are more at risk for infection. Overlake Hospital has just opened a Mother Milk Depot, where moms can donate their surplus milk to infants in need.

Little Leif was not scheduled to make his debut until late September. He had other plans.

He was born at 28 weeks gestation so about 3 months early. Very early, said Robin Ballard, Leif s mother.

Seven-and-a-half month Brecken on the other hand was right on schedule. Brecken s mom, Madeline Williams, and Robin met for the first time Tuesday.

Two different stories with a common thread: Madeleine is a breast milk donor. And Robin is a grateful mom. Her baby is one of many to benefit.

We have 12 patients today and I m thinking 10 of those at some point have had some partial parts of donor breast milk, said Overlake NICU Manager Lynne Saunders.

Saunders says premature babies are especially vulnerable to dangerous infections of the gut, and breast milk provides protection. Supply is always an issue, though.

We always need new donors as moms wean their babies an can no longer donate unlike donating blood so we re always looking for new donors, said Sandy Salmon, Overlake Women s Clinic.

Donated milk from Overlake is shipped to a milk bank in Denver where it is screened and pasteurized before being distributed.

And there s an upside to having the depot is that we have first access to the milk in Denver for our babies, said Sunders. Before we got it as it was available.

Robin had never heard of the donated breast milk before Leif s early arrival.

I think I was asked about it within just a couple hours of him being born someone came in and said we have this program, said Robin. It was a little hazy for me at that point, but that sounds great thank you. Do it.

The idea is to provide a much needed bridge until the mom can supply her own breast milk or to supplement if she s not able to produce enough for her baby to thrive.

There are now four Breast Milk Depots in the Puget Sound area. Two other Overlake locations are in Everett and Tacoma. For more information on how to become a donor, go to the Mothers' Milk Bank - Rocky Mountain Children's Health Foundation website.

EvergreenHealth, which is affiliated with Northwest Mothers Milk Bank in Portland, has a location in Kirkland.

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