Best for Babes is the only national consumer-driven nonprofit for the human milk cause. Their largest annual event, Miracle Milk® Stroll (MMS), is in its third year. The MMS happens each May in cities across the U.S. and Canada. The purpose of the event is to increase access to and awareness of the lifesaving power of human milk, especially for our most fragile infants in the NICU. Best for Babes shares proceeds with nonprofit partners to support their work in getting more human milk to more of our babies.
This year, over 2,500 people attended and donated raising over $31,000* for the human milk cause!
Cullen shares the highlight of Dover’s Stroll being the community rallying around a life-saving cause.
“I loved ending the Stroll and having people who saw us walk come up to ask questions about milk donation and to connect with others saying, I breastfed my baby, too…The feedback really showed the impact of awareness!” she exclaims.
Cullen also shares: “A mom was photographed breastfeeding her baby in the background of [a] picture– something that she was unaware of at the time… She was so amazed about how unexposed she was and it has completely increased her comfort level for breastfeeding in public. One small step in reminding us that this is a normal behavior.”
Another mother donated 274 ounces of her milk to the Mother’s Milk Bank!
Davenport, Iowa’s Stroll, coordinated by Rock Star Local Coordinator Aubrey Schlue, also welcomed about 90 participants this year.
Schlue reports that between attendees and sponsors, their event raised over $1,000.
“The highlight of our Stroll was having Jean Drulis, director and co-founder of the Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa, come and speak about what they do, the importance of human milk donations, and how to donate,” Schlue says.
The Davenport Stroll also featured a local mother who shared her experience using donated milk when one of her children–now a healthy 11-year-old–was born prematurely.
“The hospital wouldn’t allow her sister to donate breastmilk to their child, and she had to work hard to get donated milk from the Iowa Milk Bank,” Schlue reiterates. “It was a huge ordeal because they had never used donated milk at the hospital. Local mothers here in our area owe a lot to this mother, because she paved the way for future children to have access to this lifesaving milk.”
Schlue was impressed that a local news station covered their Stroll this year, too.
“I think that a lot of the resistance to breastfeeding and milk sharing or donating is based on misinformation, so any time we can get those statistics and facts out there in the community is a win in my book,” she comments.
Cullen and Schlue both admit challenges to hosting a Stroll.
“Hosting the Miracle Milk Stroll is a pretty hefty undertaking, but having a co-coordinator or two really helps,” Schlue says.
She also says that the event doesn’t have to be extravagant.
“Not every Stroll needs a tent with tables and decorations,” she says. “The heart of the Stroll rests in raising awareness and funds to help premature and compromised infants…it’s important to encourage those who don’t have the time or funds to pull off such a huge event to still host a Stroll in their area.”
Schlue reflects on the first Stroll she hosted by herself. About 20 people showed up.
“It was still a valuable and worthy use of my time,” she says.
Cullen says that each year, it has gotten easier hosting the Stroll.
“It can be overwhelming,” she comments. “We are communicating mostly via Facebook with almost one hundred other locations and Best for Babes Stroll Coordinators all over the country and Canada. So, my advice would be to relax, remember why you are doing this, and ask questions!”
Despite these challenges, Cullen’s and Schlue’s passion to help moms and babies is unshakeable.
Even before having children of her own, Cullen says human milk was important to her.
“I remember wanting to support friends that were having babies,” she says.
When her daughter was born with a minor heart defect that corrected itself around four months, her cardiologist attributed her fast recovery to exclusive breastfeeding.
“My experience with her– having to take a new baby in and out of specialist offices during the harsh winter, lessening her risks of getting sick, lowering her symptoms when getting sick– I was able to see first-hand how beneficial breastmilk is,” Cullen says.
It was during her experience coordinating the Miracle Milk® Stroll in its inaugural year that Cullen learned the most about Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a disease that affects the wall of the intestine.
“… After learning that receiving donor milk can be life saving, my passion increased,” she reports.
Schlue says the human milk cause is important to her because “it is a perfect food for babies and children, whether it comes straight from the tap or is expressed and/or donated.”
She goes on, “The statistics on NEC are staggering and heartbreaking… It can cost so much money and multiple surgeries to repair the damage and yet, simply by using human milk instead of formula to feed these children, we can reduce the risk of all that pain and suffering by 79 percent. That is huge.”
Find more great Miracle Milk® Stroll stories here.
*Edited from original post to reflect final audited numbers.