It is World Breastfeeding Week, a time meant to educate people about the benefits of breastfeeding. But what happens in cases where new moms can't provide milk for their babies? They can turn to donated breast milk.
Kelly Rilk, from Tipton in the Altoona area, was as surprised as anybody when little Parker came along ten weeks early.
"He's feisty, he's fussy. he loves to be the center of attention, wants to be involved in whatever mom and dad are doing," Kelly said, smiling, telling us about her baby.
Parker is now four and a half months old, and doctors say he is thriving, in part, because of something Kelly didn't even know existed: donated breast milk.
Dr. Connie Andrejko is a neonatologist at Geisinger Medical Center near Danville. She says for newborns, mom's milk is always best.
"But there's definitely situations where moms can't provide that milk, or there's a period where mom's milk isn't in at first. The next best thing would be donated breast milk," said Dr. Andrejko.
She, along with registered nurse and lactation consultant Ronna Aucker, explained that there are donor human milk banks across the country. Breast milk is donated by moms who, for a variety of reasons, have an extra supply. Parker was a recipient of donated milk when he was first born.
"It was something that was really important to me. Early here I had problems getting my milk supply up, so for the first few days of life, he recieved donor milk, before my milk came in," Kelly told us.
Lactation experts say there's a long list of breastfeeding benefits. For baby, that includes fewer and shorter episodes of illness, and a decreased risk of a host of ailments, from allergies and ear infections to diabetes and asthma. Breastfeeding moms enjoy a lower risk of breast, ovarian, and cervical cancers.
Ronna Aucker says there's a team at Geisinger dedicated to educating new and prospective moms.
"We support moms the whole time they are breastfeeding, whether it be after you get discharged, the day you go home- all the way up to the mom still breastfeeding at 18 months and needs help weaning," she said.
There is a cost associated with getting donated breast milk. The Children's Miracle Network funds that program at Geisinger.