The Oklahoma Mothers’ Milk Bank was the 13<sup>th</sup> milk bank operating in the United States when it began processing milk in August 2013. Prior to OMMB, the closest bank to Oklahoma was in Texas. There are frequent shortages nationwide as the demand for human milk in hospitals continues to increase.
For at least 10 years, Oklahoma mothers had been donating milk that was shipped to Texas milk banks for processing and distribution to hospitals. In 2007, OU Medical Center (OUMC) partnered with the Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas (MMBNT) in Fort Worth, TX to become a milk bank depot, often considered a first step in developing a new milk bank. Oklahoma mothers then could deliver their milk easily to OUMC where it could be safely stored until pick up by MMBNT couriers. In the first three years of MMBNT’s operation, 10% of the milk it distributed was provided by Oklahoma mothers through OUMC.
Oklahoma neonatologists on occasion were utilizing pasteurized donor milk and in early 2011, OU neonatologists began regularly ordering donor milk for NICU infants. OUMC has the largest NICU in Oklahoma with 90 beds and often milk was not available due to inadequate supplies. At one point, OUMC was on a waiting list for almost 2 weeks due to shortages of milk. Ironically, OUMC was also one of the most prolific milk depots for the Texas milk bank in that Oklahoma mothers donated thousands of ounces of milk for other babies.
In February 2011, the OMMB Board of Directors was established and OMMB was legally incorporated as a 501c3 organization on March 3, 2011. OMMB’s Board of Directors is comprised of business, civic and maternal/child health leaders. The board functions in accordance with the bylaws of the OMMB. The Oklahoma Blood Institute (OBI) has generously partnered with OMMB to assist in operations. The milk bank is physically located in OBI’s newest building which provides a central location for delivering milk statewide and benefits from OBI’s on-site donor screening, statewide courier service and locations around the state for housing of milk depots. OMMB supplies pasteurized donor milk primarily to hospitals in Oklahoma though requests from hospitals in the surrounding region are considered as supply is available. Education and outreach to the public and health care professionals about the need for donor milk is an ongoing responsibility.