News release by Franciscan Health:

Franciscan Health Michigan City is collaborating with The Milk Bank to provide access to breast milk for infants in need both in and out of the hospital.

Patty DeStefano, manager of the Franciscan Health Michigan City Family Birth Center, said the hospital began the process with Indianapolis-based The Milk Bank in October 2022. The program launched on August 1, 2023 of this year at the beginning of World Breastfeeding Month.

“Franciscan Health Michigan City is thrilled to be one of just two Milk Bank partnership sites available in LaPorte County,” said Franciscan Health Michigan City Medical Director and OB/GYN Sharmilee Thota, MD. “We take pride in not only delivering exceptional care to our expectant mothers, but to newborn babies as well.”

DeStefano said the hospital is committed to increasing exclusive breast feeding rates in women who give birth at the Family Birth Center and has been successful in meeting the goal, more than tripling their rates in 2022. The Milk Bank partnership, she said, will enhance those efforts.

The program provides human milk at the Family Birth Center at the hospital to infants after birth and up to 40 ounces of milk after discharge for purchase without a prescription through the Milk Express at the Prenatal Assistance Program at the legacy campus at 301 Homer Street.

Lactating mothers wishing to donate breast milk to the program may do so at the Milk Depot at the WIC office next door to the Prenatal Assistance Program office. DeStefano said 8% of the donations that come into program are from mothers who have lost a baby.

“Many say it helps them through the grief process to know they are helping provide for other babies,” DeStefano said.

Some of the parents using The Milk Bank programs are those who have adopted infants. Others may have medical reasons for not being able to provide breast milk or may need to be separated from their child, creating a gap in breast milk availability for the infant.

“For our purposes, this is a way to safely provide breast milk, regardless of the circumstances,” DeStefano said.

DeStefano said the milk goes through a pasteurization process and is screened for safety.

Multiple studies have shown infants who are fed human milk have significant health benefits over babies who are fed formula, including stronger immune systems. Babies who are fed breast milk have reduced instances of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), are less likely to develop childhood leukemia, middle ear infections and respiratory infections and are less likely to have childhood obesity as well as type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The melatonin in human milk also helps babies sleep better than their formula-fed counterparts.

Human milk is also important for infant gut health. DeStefano said studies have shown even one bottle of formula for a baby who normally receives breast milk can change the biome in the gut of a medically susceptible baby.

“We want to fill the gap for a mom hoping to exclusively breastfeed her baby,” DeStefano said. “We want to help moms be successful in their breastfeeding journeys.”

Those interested in receiving milk for their infant must register for the program online at

For more information, please call the Franciscan Health Michigan City Family Birth Center at 219-877-1610.