Public health experts say mothers' milk is best for babies.

Luckily for Portland-area infants, the first donor human milk bank in the Northwest opens its doors on Thursday in Beaverton.

The grand opening of the Northwest Mothers Milk Bank is 6:30 to 8 p.m. at 417 S.W. 117th Ave., Beaverton.

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Northwest Mothers Milk Bank, a nonprofit milk bank accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, collects donations from mothers producing more than their babies need. The milk is screened, pasteurized and distributed to premature or sick babies whose mother cannot produce enough.

“We have finalized our procedures and protocols to make sure our screening and processing are safe and effective for infants,” says co-director Joanne Ransom.

All Portland-area Neonatal Intensive Care Units use donor milk for infants in need.

The Northwest Mothers Milk Bank is the twelfth human donor milk bank in the nation and allows nearby hospitals to receive local donor milk.

The closest donor milk banks have been in San Jose, Calif. and Denver, Colo.

Currently, the Portland bank receives a total of 5,000 to 10,000 ounces of milk each month from 11 Portland-area drop-off sites.

The amount of milk being donated to babies in need will only increase with the opening of the Portland bank, organizers say.

After five years in development, the bank opens with a full staff with the financial help of community hospital systems and individual donors.

“Providence Health & Services has been instrumental to Northwest Mothers Milk Bank’s development,” says co-director of the milk bank Lesley Mondeaux. “They have provided the foundation of physical space and services that have allowed us to open our doors.”

At the grand opening Mondeaux and Ransom will present Providence with a Healthcare Champion Award.

Oregon Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, a family physician at Oregon Health & Science University, will speak at the event.

Hayward is the Director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute Breast Health Education Program and president of the Oregon Academy of Family Physicians.

Oregon is the breastfeeding capital of the nation, ranked third with more than 88 percent of Oregon mothers having ever breastfed their children.

And numbers are on the rise in Oregon and nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2012 breastfeeding report card.

More than 68 percent of Oregon mothers breastfed at six months; 48 percent were still going at 12 months. More than half of Oregon mothers exclusively breastfed at three months and 26 percent still at six months.

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