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Officials reflect on first 'milk bank' in Arkansas


Last year, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences opened the state’s first milk bank, which provides breast milk for mothers of newborns.

During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers passed Act 225 to create the milk bank. In an interview with Arkansas PBS, Rep. Aaron Pilkington, Republican of Knoxville, and a sponsor of the bill, said the bill was needed because Arkansas was having to buy milk from other states.

“We had to go to either Texas or Michigan. What’s even crazier is we had mothers who wanted to donate their milk and we’re sending it to other states,” he said.

Misty L. Virmani, M.D., executive medical director of the UAMS Milk Bank, said it is important that the state has a milk bank.

“Breast milk, mom’s milk, provides a substantial part of immune protection. The antibodies that are present in mom’s milk actually invade and get into the babies’ body and help develop the organs and the immune structure,” she said.

Prior to opening the milk bank, hospitals in the state were paying over a million dollars a year to get breast milk from other states, according to UAMS.

Ronak Patel is a reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.