By Jennifer Yoon, RDN/LDN, Breastfeeding Educator, Pediatric Alliance — St. Clair
(Excerpts from Fast Facts: Miracle Milk, miraclemilk.org)
May is Miracle Milk Month. The goal is to raise awareness of the risks to premature babies, and the profound effect breast milk can have on the health and survival of these at-risk infants. Prematurity is the #1 killer of newborns (not including congenital malformations). 1 in 9 babies is born preterm (before 37 weeks) in the United States.
Premature babies are at increased risk for infections and breathing difficulties, long-term health problems, and developmental delay. Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is an infection of the intestines and is the #2 killer of premature babies and the #10 killer of all babies. The use of an all human milk diet can lower the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) by 79%.
Breast milk is important for all babies, but is shown to be an extremely powerful weapon in the survival of pre-term babies. “When a two-pound baby is fighting for its life, human milk becomes more than ordinary . . . for sick and fragile babies, human milk is truly Miracle Milk®.”
Mothers who deliver early or have complications in labor experience tremendous stress and may not be able to produce milk right away for their babies despite good lactation support. Babies may be intubated or too fragile to latch on and nurse right away (though some premature babies CAN latch on and breastfeed). Donor milk can be critical in filling the gap until the mother’s milk increases in volume enough to provide full feeds to these fragile babies.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stated its position on donor milk for preterm infants:
“The potent benefits of human milk are such that all preterm infants should receive human milk… If mother’s own milk is unavailable despite significant lactation support, pasteurized donor milk should be used.”
The powerful effect of human milk is dose-dependent; any amount improves health, but the more, the better. An exclusive human milk diet has the greatest impact. Specially screened and processed human milk from a milk bank is the only donated milk acceptable for premature babies. The cost of exclusive donor milk is typically between $700 and $2,000 per month per premature baby.
If you or someone you know may be able to donate this life saving miracle milk, contact the Mid-Atlantic Milk Bank located in Pittsburgh. Their motto is “Donated Human Milk Saves Lives.”
*** Jennifer Yoon sees patients at the Pediatric Alliance — St. Clair office. For an appointment, please call (412) 221-2121. Read more from Jennifer’s “Nutrition 4 Kids” column on The PediaBlog here.