We sat out upon this journey nearly eight months ago. At that time, Third Strand was an idea searching for life. Through our own experience, we had unveiled deficiencies in an industry that exists to feed babies. 

As a result of the loving generosity of mothers, our family had received nearly forty gallons of donor milk at our home for the benefit of my Sister’s newborn baby, Cru. After research, questions and deliberation with experts and physicians, we learned the absolute necessity of processing any donor milk received through pasteurization. We learned of the countless strands of bacteria that could be present in the breast milk, toxins, antibiotics, medications and viruses - all of which can be harmful - even deadly -  to a nursing infant.

We were directed to the nearest Breast Milk Bank, operated by HMBANA (Human Milk Banking Association of North America). This was one of approximately thirty NonProfit Breast Milk Banks in the United States, set up to screen donor mothers and pasteurize donor milk prior to distribution. However, we learned that essentially 100% of the donor milk taken in at these Milk Banks is processed and sold to Hospitals for use in NICUs to feed sick and premature infants. In these cases, the donor milk is sold to the hospital for anywhere from $5 - $16 per ounce; that cost is then transferred to the patient and then typically to the patient’s insurance who will cover the cost.

These Donor Milk Banks actually do a fairly solid job of serving sick and premature infants in the hospital setting. However, we quickly learned that outside of that setting, babies are essentially forgotten. 

When we approached the NonProfit Milk Bank we were told that since our nursing infant was healthy and not in the hospital setting, he did not qualify for any donor milk. However, they were ‘willing’ to consider allowing us to hand over the forty gallons of donor milk we had received and purchase donor milk back at $6 per ounce. 

On average, it takes approximately 4.5 gallons of breast milk to feed a newborn infant for one month. Medical professionals agree that the benefits of feeding a child breast milk are unparalleled, and that the goal should be to feed breast milk throughout the first year of an infants life. They also agree that the minimum timeframe to receive all of the benefits from a breast milk diet is two months. Some quick math for you: there are 128 ounces in a gallon; at $6 per ounce, that equates to nearly $4,000 to feed a newborn child donor milk per month.

Of course this frustrated us, as mothers from across the country had given a portion of themselves with the intent of helping my nephew and our family. The generosity of these mothers was literally overflowing freezers. However, now we had learned that in order to safely utilize this milk, it would come at an exorbitant cost - and in a time when a mother, a wife, a daughter and a sister was lost unexpectedly.

We refused to accept this as a best practice from an organization and an industry that promotes itself on the well-being of babies and helping others. 

We set out on a path that we discovered would have to be forged by ourselves. Of course, we were not the first ones to realize these deficiencies, however, we committed ourselves to making sure that we are the last.

Initially, we put together a logical model of exchanging an amount of raw donor milk for processed and pasteurized milk to provide to a family in need. We referred to it as a ‘continuous act of paying-it-forward.’ 

Surprisingly, we received incredible resistance. In fact, we were told, repeatedly, that we were “wasting our time,” “causing more harm than good,” “taking milk away from babies that really needed it,” and “simply running on emotion.” 

What they didn't realize was that these words would have no effect on us. If anything, they fueled the fire in our hearts and our minds to find a solution to this problem.

We explored different paths and traveled to different parts of the country in search of a Milk Bank, any Milk Bank, that would look past the dollars and ounces and recognize the need to do what is right. 

God eventually led us to an amazing door. Despite the thousands of miles traveling countless conversations with strangers, the door that God led us to was just down the road from my home…1.75 miles to be exact.

Third Strand’s mission is to provide safe donor breast milk to healthy nursing infants who have lost a mother or whose mother is unable to breastfeed because of a serious illness. However, our goal, from the onset, has been to create change in a complacent industry, to rock the boat and find true solutions to real problems. We wanted to make donor breast milk more affordable to all families and more available to more babies.

Through our partnership with Advanced Nano Solutions, we have discovered a technology that will allow us to do just that. 

Using filters coated with a truly innovative technology, developed by a good friend, we are able to provide families we serve with the ability to ‘clean’ donated breast milk without having to funnel it through a Milk Bank.

We currently have over 100 gallons of donor breast milk in our storage that has been generously given by loving mothers who support our mission. 

In the event that a healthy nursing infant heartbreakingly loses a mother - or a mother is battling a disease that causes her to not be able to breastfeed, we have the ability to deliver two months worth of donor milk and a filter that will kill any harmful bacteria that might be present in the milk. Our innovative filters are, in fact, more effective and efficient that the current industry standards of pasteurization. Further, all of the donor mothers who provide milk to Third Strand undergo a thorough interview to ensure that there are no viruses, antibiotics, medications or anything else in the milk that could harm a nursing infant - just as the Milk Banks.

We are currently completing testing that will allow us to take this technology to the industry as a whole - which will result in a drastic decrease in the cost of donor milk to all babies and making more milk available to more nursing infants. 

We recognize and understand that this is not the work of us as individuals, as Third Strand, or as Advanced Nano Solutions. In truth, this continues to be the work of a powerful God that has delivered us from tragedy and given us a platform to help countless others. 

Words cannot express how grateful we are for the support that has been shown to our organization. The financial support, the words of encouragement and the prayers have carried us this far. We ask for continued support. It is an arduous task - starting an organization such as Third Strand, and it is made more difficult by the fact that we are doing something that has never been done before. 

We cannot wait to see what lies ahead!

Thank you!

Third Strand is a NonProfit Organization, incorporated in the State of Texas. All funds raised will go to directly to allowing Third Strand to work towards its mission of feeding healthy nursing babies in need of Donor Human Milk.

For more information about our work please visit www.thirdstrand.foundation or visit us on Facebook @thirdstrandfoundation

Together, we will help countless babies and minister our story.


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