Milk Depot opens doors: Fort Cavazos celebrates breastfeeding month with grand opening

By Rodney Jackson, CRDAMC Public AffairsSeptember 1, 2023

Amy Yeager, district director, Bell County Public Health, Maj. Matthew Nestander, Chief of Inpatient Pediatrics and NICU Medical Director, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, Fort Cavazos, and a host of infants and mothers stand by as Nicole Koenen, WIC Director, Bell County Public Health, cuts the ribbon for the new Fort Cavazos Milk Depot during its grand opening ceremony Aug. 23 at the Shoemaker Center. (U.S. Army photo by Rodney Jackson, CRDAMC Public Affairs)
Amy Yeager, district director, Bell County Public Health, Maj. Matthew Nestander, Chief of Inpatient Pediatrics and NICU Medical Director, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, Fort Cavazos, and a host of infants and mothers stand by as Nicole Koenen, WIC Director, Bell County Public Health, cuts the ribbon for the new Fort Cavazos Milk Depot during its grand opening ceremony Aug. 23 at the Shoemaker Center. (U.S. Army photo by Rodney Jackson, CRDAMC Public Affairs)
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army)
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FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — The Fort Cavazos Women, Infant and Children’s clinic celebrated National Breastfeeding Month with the grand opening of the Fort Cavazos Milk Depot on Aug. 23 here.

According to the WIC office, this is the first, and currently the only, human milk collection site located on a military installation, which is truly worth celebrating.

The depot will work in conjunction with the Milk Bank of Austin that since October 2022 — when it started counting — has collected more than 19,000 ounces and that amount has helped feed more than 6,000 at-risk and sick infants across the United States.

The Milk Bank of Austin officially opened in 1999 and has provided 60,000 babies in the U.S. with human milk. Mothers from the Fort Cavazos community have supported the need of human milk’s benefits and availability for infants by driving there to donate.

The Fort Cavazos Milk Depot will be a closer and more convenient place to donate.

“(Donating) has definitely been worth it,” said Grace Wolford, spouse of Spc. Devin Dennis, a 1st Cavalry Division Soldier, with son Azreal. “The process is super simple with only an interview and a blood test, and you drop off whenever you can.”

Wolford’s cousin’s son was born premature, and needed donor milk.

On behalf of the premature and ill infants in Texas and around the U.S., Kim Updegrove, director, Milk Bank of Austin gives Nicole Koenen, WIC director, Bell County Public Health, a certificate officially designating the Fort Cavazos Milk Depot in a grand opening ceremony Aug. 23 at the Shoemaker Center. (U.S. Army photo by Rodney Jackson, CRDAMC Public Affairs)
On behalf of the premature and ill infants in Texas and around the U.S., Kim Updegrove, director, Milk Bank of Austin gives Nicole Koenen, WIC director, Bell County Public Health, a certificate officially designating the Fort Cavazos Milk Depot in a grand opening ceremony Aug. 23 at the Shoemaker Center. (U.S. Army photo by Rodney Jackson, CRDAMC Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

“I’m just glad he was able to have that resource, because it would have broken my heart if he hadn’t,” she said. “It’s really important what we donors do, and if I’m able to do it again I absolutely will, 100 percent.”

Although the milk will be processed at the Milk Bank of Austin prior to its availability, the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, located directly across the street from the new milk depot, has received donated milk for infants.

CRDAMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit receives milk from the Austin Milk Bank and utilizes the milk to help prevent disease related to prematurity or as a supplement while the mother’s own milk is being established, according to Maj. Matthew Nestander, chief of Inpatient Pediatrics and NICU medical director, CRDAMC.

“The donations are a real benefit for the mothers and infants that deliver at CRDAMC on Fort Cavazos,” said Nestander. “The milk is used both in a routine Mother-Baby Unit and more frequently in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.”

The NICU averages 150 to 200 annual admissions, with each infant benefitting from the availability of donor breast milk, he added.

A NICU is a nursery in a hospital that provides around-the-clock care to sick or preterm babies. It has health care providers who have special training and equipment to give babies the best possible care.

“Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin, the world’s leading nonprofit milk bank, is honored to partner with Fort Cavazos to support babies’ needs for human milk by opening a milk depot,” said Kim Updegrove, director, Milk Bank of Austin. “Healthy lactating women who pass the screening to become milk donors will be able to conveniently drop off their donated milk in their community.”

Grace Wolford, spouse of Spc. Devin Dennis, 1st Cav. Div., with son Azreal, shares how donating has help her through postpartum depression and helped support infants in need as well during the grand opening of the Fort Cavazos Milk Depot. (U.S. Army photo by Rodney Jackson, CRDAMC Public Affairs)
Grace Wolford, spouse of Spc. Devin Dennis, 1st Cav. Div., with son Azreal, shares how donating has help her through postpartum depression and helped support infants in need as well during the grand opening of the Fort Cavazos Milk Depot. (U.S. Army photo by Rodney Jackson, CRDAMC Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin provides pasteurized donor human milk to babies in 180 NICUs across the country, and to more than 500 babies in communities, and this depot is the first ever military base depot – a true win for the women in the community and for the babies in need, she added.

Mothers who wish to become registered donors can visit the Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin website www.Milkbank.org or call 512-494-0800.

The Fort Cavazos WIC office also offers nutritional education, supplemental foods, breastfeeding education support and promotion, and community referrals. For more information, visit www.TexasWIC.org or call 254-532-9800.