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Premature Infants Can Benefit from Donor Human Milk During NICU Stays When Own Mother's Milk Unavailable

  • Category: In The News
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Melanie Zaffuto

Premature and low birth weight babies born at North Oaks Medical Center can now receive the health benefits of donor breast milk during their Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) stay in cases where their own mothers’ milk is not available.

Babies born before 33 weeks or with a birth weight less than or equal to 3.3 pounds are eligible to receive a donor human milk prescription with parental consent during their time in the NICU.

“A mother’s milk is always preferred for her baby,” explains Tasha Daniel, who is lead lactation consultant at North Oaks Medical Center. “But sometimes mom’s supply may not have come in yet, she may not be able to produce enough, or she may have a health issue which prevents her from being able to breastfeed. That’s when donor human milk can be used to bridge the gap in baby’s nutrition.”

“Breast milk provides babies with ideal nutrition for growth, fighting infection and promoting brain development,” asserts North Oaks Neonatologist Jeffrey Surcouf, M.D. “It’s especially important for premature and low birth weight babies to receive breast milk because they are more likely to develop potentially life-threatening intestinal infections if they are fed formula. Breast milk can even possibly shorten hospital stays. The bottom line is that premature babies have significantly better outcomes when they are fed breast milk.”From left, North Oaks Children’s Services Clinical Nurse Manager Tamara Mitchell and Lead Lactation Consultant Tasha Daniel receive the hospital’s first shipment of pasteurized donor human milk Aug. 14. World Breastfeeding Month is observed every August.

Babies enrolled in North Oaks’ program may continue to receive donor human milk during their NICU stay until certain milestones have been met as determined by their neonatologist. Some milestones include the ability to handle full feedings, as well as reaching a certain age or weight.

The hospital’s donor human milk supply is provided by Mother’s Milk Bank in Austin, Texas. Mother’s Milk Bank puts donors through a rigorous screening process before they can donate. The donated milk is tested and pasteurized to kill any bacteria and viruses.

NICUs are hospital units that care for babies who are born too early or have serious illnesses. North Oaks Medical Center has operated a NICU for 28 years. The North Oaks NICU is ranked among the top 25% in the U.S., according to the Vermont-Oxford study in its review of patient outcomes in selected areas.

For more information about the Donor Human Milk Program at North Oaks Medical Center, call the hospital’s Lactation Department at (985) 230-6415.

If you are interested in donating breast milk to Mother’s Milk Bank Austin, click here to learn more about the process and eligibility criteria.

To learn more about North Oaks Women & Children’s Services, click here.