Peconic Pediatrics in Riverhead opens county’s first milk bank

Riverhead is now home to Suffolk County’s first-ever depot that will supply donated breast milk for newborns around the state.

Peconic Pediatrics on Commerce Drive will be a collection site for the New York Milk Bank, located in Westchester County. The New York Milk Bank distributes breast milk primarily to neonatal intensive care units at hospitals where newborn and premature babies are more likely to need that resource.

“Those very, very tiny babies do much, much better on breast milk,” said Dr. Lisa Visentin of Peconic Pediatrics. “Sometimes their moms, for a variety of reasons, are not able to produce milk for the babies. Sometimes the moms have health reasons, something that let them to have a premature baby, so this is a way to help them.

Studies have shown that babies in neonatal intensive care units have improved health outcomes on breast milk rather than formula, Dr. Visentin said. It’s easier for premature babies to digest, they are less likely to get intestinal infections when they’re fed breast milk, and they grow better, she added.

Mothers in Suffolk County interested in donating extra breast milk can do so at no cost. Mothers can also mail milk to the bank in an insulated box, otherwise the depot will take care of the mailing, Dr. Visentin said.

Women interested in donating must fill out a questionnaire and have blood work done to be tested for infectious diseases. Moms also must receive doctor approval and from their baby’s pediatrician. The donated milk gets tested at the milk bank and is pasteurized so there is no risk of contamination.

In New York City, donated milk sometimes gets picked up and delivered in an unlikely way — on motorcycles. A group called the Siren’s Women’s Motorcycle Club of New York City teamed up with the milk bank, hitting the road on bikes to deliver milk quickly. It’s too early to say whether that group will make it out to Riverhead, Dr. Visentin said.

“This is all still pretty new for us here to have the milk, so we’re not sure if they’re going to be able to come out this way and participate with us, but that is potentially something we could do with them in the future,” she said.

For now, the goal is to spread the word about the Suffolk County depot and educate mothers who can donate, as well as those who could benefit from the service.

“We hope to increase the awareness so that people know this is something they can do,” Dr. Visentin said. “I think a lot of people don’t even know that this is an option.”

Peconic Pediatrics, which also has a Southold office, will host an official ribbon cutting on Dec. 13 in Riverhead.

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