12/23/20 - A Message from Secretary Hou: Bright Spot - WIC Milk Donations

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Good Morning IDHS Team,

One thing that 2020 has reminded us, is that helping your neighbor never goes out of style. This year, as communities across Illinois and our country navigated through COVID and civil unrest, we were shown many examples of neighbors coming together to hold food drives, raising funds to support local businesses, and being allies in the face of racism and hate. Unexpectedly, we've also seen compassion and help rise in another area: the donation of breast milk. I am excited to highlight our WIC offices and their efforts to help us continue and increase breast milk donations during COVID.

Many are often surprised to learn that breast milk can be donated. However, for many fragile infants, including premature babies, breast milk is essential to help with recovering from necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a potentially life-threatening intestinal disease. According to the Journal of Pediatrics, in addition to the serious and sometimes fatal health risks, an infant with NEC can accumulate another $100,000 in additional medical costs.

To help families and babies in need, WIC plays a vital part in the breast milk donation process. Currently, 19 Illinois WIC agencies are Milk Depots, which is a collection site for approved human milk donors. Area donors that have been approved to provide donations can drop off their excess breast milk at a local Milk Depot, where donations are collected and sent to one of two Milk Banks in the Midwest. The milk is ultimately pasteurized to kill any bacteria or viruses, and also tested for sterility before being dispensed to an ordering hospital or outpatient with a physician's prescription.

The collaboration between the Milk Banks and the location housing the WIC program is effortless, with a minimal amount of time required from WIC staff. However, the partnership plays a big impact in the lives of families with fragile infants. Recognizing the importance of the program and the need for ongoing donations, the WIC offices switched Milk Depots from walk-in drop off, to curbside pickup. With many moms being home during COVID, combined with unique donation options, local Milk Depots report that donations are up all around. In places like Peoria and McLean Counties, and regions near and far, Milk Depots are receiving donations ranging from 100 ounces, all the way up to 914 ounces or 7 gallons!

Thank you to leaders across our WIC offices who play an integral role in making this partnership successful, including Melanie Eader, who leads as our Breastfeeding Coordinator.

As we continue through this holiday season, I am thankful to all of our IDHS staff for always being willing and able to meet and exceed expectations.

Thank you,


Grace B. Hou

Secretary, IDHS