Donating breast milk for neonatal intensive care

Frozen for storage

Hospitals and other organizations routinely urge people to give blood, bone marrow and even some organs, but Texas Children’s Hospital is launching a different kind of donor program: breast milk.

The Houston pediatric hospital is asking nursing mothers in the area to donate their excess milk, which has proved life-saving for prematurely born babies whose mothers are unable to produce enough to meet the infant’s needs.

“The evidence is overwhelming that these critically ill preemies do best on mother’s milk, the reason we only feed breast milk in our neonatal intensive care unit,” said Nancy Hurst, a Texas Children’s nurse and director of the new donor milk program. “Ideally, they get their own mother’s milk, but donor milk is the next best thing.”

Around the nation, the use of donor breast milk has grown dramatically in recent years. The nation’s nonprofit donor milk banks last year processed and dispensed 1.8 million ounces, up from about 325,000 in 1999. The increased demand has caused the banks to issue urgent appeals for donors.

That demand mostly relates to the nation’s roughly 51,000 very low birth weight babies who survive childbirth every year, babies who weigh 3.3 pounds or less. It would take nearly 9 million ounces of donor milk to provide all those babies what the mothers themselves can’t produce…

Since 2009, Texas Children’s had got its donor milk from the Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin, one of 10 U.S. nonprofit banks, all of which screen the donor mothers’ blood and pasteurize the milk. Texas Children’s will now maintain its own bank, though the pasteurizing will be done at a for-profit plant in California…

In another form, donor milk dates to more than 2,000 years before Christ, when the Code of Hammurabi set forth the qualities for a good wet nurse, women who breast-fed others’ babies. Wet nurses fell out of favor in the developed world around the turn of the 20th century, after researchers found the milk could transfer diseases to newborns. Milk banks emerged not long after.

The appeal of donor breast milk is particularly strong because it’s common for mothers of premature babies to struggle to produce milk…Also, premature infants often arrive at hospitals such as Texas Children’s well before the mother, transferred from remote locations.

All good news AFAIC. Real healthcare for children that need it the most.

I hope they’re not screwing around with too many plastic additives. Natural ain’t bad.

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