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New program gives premature infants access to donor milk

Nov 9, 2017

Credit freeimages.com/Sally Bradshaw

Golisano Children's Hospital says a new program is expected to improve health outcomes for premature infants born in its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

As of this week, very premature babies weighing less than 3.3 pounds have access to donor breast milk when their own mother's milk is not available.

"Some mothers may have also been ill themselves,” said NICU nurse Rachel Seffen. “That may be part of the reason the baby was born prematurely. They may need some supplementation in the beginning until their milk supply is able to meet the demands of the baby."

Breastmilk protects against a wide variety of infections and complications, and milk from a donor is the next best thing to a mother's own milk. Steffen spearheaded an effort to obtain pasteurized milk products from a licensed tissue bank in California.

The donor milk products used in the program come from volunteers who undergo a rigorous screening process. “They are screened for illness, drugs, and nicotene, and then they are DNA matched to make sure that the milk they are giving is from them,” Steffen said

The NICU’s smallest patients will be fed a fortified product made with the donor milk at a NICU nutrition lab.

Steffen said hospitals that adopt similar programs find that the mothers’ own milk production improves. The hospital says the new program will benefit 200 patients each year.