Earlier this year, Julie Bouchet-Horwitz, a nurse practitioner and lactation consultant, opened New York State’s very first milk bank with one plain and simple mission: to collect as many donations of breast milk possible, pasteurize the milk, and then donate it to babies in need — especially preemies and sick babies.
According to Bouchet-Horwitz, operations at New York Milk Bank have been going great since it opened this summer. At least, in terms of donation and handling. Until recently, there was just one little problem: Delivery.
Bouchet-Horwitz tells Babble that the milk bank’s main issue was finding a quick way to deliver donated milk to babies in Manhattan. (Because as anyone who has ever been within a few miles of Manhattan will tell you, there is absolutely no quick and easy way to get in and out of there!)
That’s when Bouchet-Horwitz had a brilliant idea: “It occurred to me, while stuck in a traffic one day, that motorcyclists ‘bob and weave’ their way through a traffic jam,” she tells Babble. “So I did a ‘Google search’ for a female motorcycle club, thinking that women would be more receptive to the idea of delivering milk to babies in need.”
Bingo! Her hunch was right. It wasn’t long before Bouchet-Hortwitz contacted Jen Baquial, president of The Sirens Women’s Motorcycle Club (a.k.a. New York City’s oldest and largest all-female motorcycle club). The Sirens were totally receptive to the idea, and wanted nothing more than to help the milk bank and the moms and babies they serve.
“We dubbed them the Milk Riders and they have enthusiastically embraced us,” says Bouchet-Horwitz, “They held a fundraiser themselves and raised $2,500 for us. They are volunteers and we pay their travel expenses.”
Ummmm, can we give these amazing ladies a standing ovation? Not only do they bust their butts hand-delivering liquid gold to babies in need, but they do it for free! They are seriously the definition of badass.
News of the Milk Riders’ amazing efforts started to sweep the Internet last week, after The New York Post released a video about The New York Milk Bank and its kick-ass band of guardian angels on November 22. Unsurprisingly, the video is going crazy viral on Facebook, with over 5K likes and 13K shares so far.
I mean, who wouldn’t grin ear-to-ear watching a bunch of leather-clad, tattooed, tough-as-nails ladies strap hundreds of ounces of pumped breast milk to their bikes — and then speed through traffic to deliver life-saving milk to NYC’s most at-risk babies?
“The Sirens represents strong women, period,” shared Baquial in the Post’s video. “Little girls, when they see us on the road, they light up. Like, ‘Wow, we can ride motorcycles like that.'”
And while their unabashed feminism and all-round message of “girl power” is pretty inspiring, it’s their absolute selflessness that’s ultimately the most touching — because what they are doing is a real service. For babies receiving the donated milk, breast milk isn’t just a perk; it can be a matter of life or death for many of them.
By now, the research is clear: Breast milk is chock full of natural antibodies and antiviral agents, which are especially important for premature or sick babies. It’s also known to protect their fragile bodies from deadly infections like necrotizing enterocolitis, and late-onset sepsis. Not all mothers are able to produce a full supply for their premature or hospitalized babies, so milk donation is particularly vital in these cases.
Getting breast milk into the babies who need it most is truly a group effort. It starts with the incredible mothers who donate their milk, the milk banks who pasteurize and store it, and heroes like the Sirens, who tirelessly and speedily deliver it, protecting that many more babies each day.
Of course, all of this orchestration requires a ton of work and resources on the part of the milk banks. Bouchet-Horwitz shares that The New York Milk Bank is looking to expand their facility and hopes that the coverage of their awesome relationship with the Sirens attracts more financial donors to their cause.
If you’d like donate to The New York Milk Bank, please visit MoneyOrMilk.org.