Working at WakeMed provides me with a unique opportunity to help distribute life saving nutrition not only to WakeMed’s patients, but to NICU babies all over the Southeast. I also get to work with an amazing group women, both staff and many volunteers, who make our mission possible.
At the age of 26, Montana Wagner-Gillespie is the youngest milk bank coordinator out of the 23 nonprofit milk banks that currently exist in the United States. Previous to her position as the Milk Bank Coordinator for the WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank, Montana was a double major at N.C. State University, studying biology and nutrition.
During her tenure at N.C. State, she completed coursework in maternal and infant nutrition and discovered a love for the areas of lactation and donor milk. From there, her choice was clear. Montana graduated N.C. State, and went on to complete a program at the UNC Gillings School of Public Health in order to become a lactation consultant.
Volunteering at the WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank gave me great insight when I began my role as coordinator. I’ve cleaned coolers, labeled milk, and sorted bubble wrap – so I know the value of the work that the volunteers provide. That is why we have so many volunteers at the milk bank now. Having an extra set of hands to help us while simultaneously giving someone the rare experience of working in a milk bank is a really cool thing.
Gaining Experience by Volunteering
From June 2013 to November of 2014, Montana volunteered at the WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank. While rounding out her time as a volunteer, Montana earned her International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) certification. She was then hired by WakeMed in December of 2014 to become the new WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank Coordinator – a title she still holds today.
Montana credits both her training in nutrition as well as her training as a lactation consultant in helping her fulfill her current role as a milk bank coordinator.
Being a Milk Bank Coordinator
In her current role as Milk Bank Coordinator, people view Montana as a leader and as a valuable resource for information.
I use my lactation consultant certification daily. We have around 150 donors at any given time, and they see the WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank not only as a place to donate milk but also as a breastfeeding resource. This means that I get to provide support and advice every day. Moms can donate milk up to their baby’s second birthday, so it is very natural for our staff to form relationships with these moms as their babies grow. It is a really rewarding part of what we do.
While she is responsible for managing the overall day-to-day operations at the WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank, her other responsibilities are diverse and vary on any given day. Some of these include:
- Representing the WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank at conferences and interdepartmental meetings
- Fielding questions from the media
- Acting as a preceptor for any interns that come through
- Scheduling and leading tours of the Milk Bank
- Helping out with the pasteurization technician duties
- And more
Building Relationships in the Community
The WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank has not only helped families and babies in need. It has also helped raise awareness about the need for donor milk. At the same time, the milk bank serves to better inform the public about breast milk and the donation process while fostering relationships within the community.
Because of my role as milk bank coordinator and as a full time graduate student, a natural relationship formed between the WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank and NCSU. It’s a neat thing to watch it come full circle. We provide the milk, NCSU students (including myself) perform the research and publish it, and then those articles serve to better inform milk bank policies and evidence-based practices.
About Montana Wagner-Gillespie
Montana graduated in 2013 from North Carolina State University with dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Nutrition Science and Biological Sciences.
Afterwards, she attended the Mary Rose Tully Training Initiative at the UNC Gillings School of Public Health, where she received her International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) training in October 2014. In December of 2014, Montana was hired by WakeMed as the new milk bank coordinator.
Today, Montana enjoys her role as Milk Bank Coordinator for the WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank, and she serves as co-chair of the WakeMed Breastfeeding Council. She also serves on the marketing committee and the strategic planning committee for the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA).
Currently, Montana is pursuing a Masters Degree from N.C. State in Nutrition Sciences with a minor in Food Science. Her Master’s thesis topic? Heat treatment and human milk.