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May 02, 2013

Rush Begins Human Breast Milk Donor Program

(Chicago)—Rush University Medical Center has launched a new program that will help provide donor human milk for all very low birth weight (VLBW) infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit who do not have enough breast milk from their own mothers. The program began the week of April 29.   

“Mothers’ own breast milk is the best nutrition for all infants because it promotes important health benefits right after birth and later in life,” said Dr. Aloka L. Patel, an associate professor in pediatrics at Rush University Medical Center. “But, whenever mom is not available or is unable to provide enough breast milk, this program will help provide donor milk until an infant is 34 weeks old.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends pasteurized donor human milk feedings when a mother’s own milk is not available for premature infants. Pasteurized donor milk retains many of the beneficial components found in mothers’ own milk, which protect the infants from infection. The nutritional parts of donor milk are also easy for the infants to digest.

“We hope donor milk will serve as a bridge for mothers until their milk supply increases,” said Patel who specializes in neonatal and perinatal medicine. “Donor milk will be used as a replacement for formula for all infants born with a birth weight of less than or equal to 1500g if the mother does not have adequate maternal milk supply for their infant or in some cases, for twins or triplets (even if their birth weights are above 1500g),” she continued.

Donor milk banks follow guidelines developed by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). Donor milk banks receive milk from lactating mothers who have been carefully screened for health behaviors and communicable diseases. The milk from several donors is pooled together after thawing, heat-treated (pasteurized) to kill any bacteria or viruses, tested to ensure absence of bacteria, and then refrozen. Frozen donor milk is transported from the milk bank to hospitals.

“In addition to the donor milk program, Rush has a Mothers’ Milk Club which provides intensive lactation support through to the mothers of our VLBW infants at Rush,” said Patel.

The Rush Mothers' Milk Club is an evidence-based hospital lactation program that empowers parents to provide human milk for their newborn and premature infants through sharing the science behind human milk and lactation. The Rush Mothers’ Milk Club is the name of the breast-feeding, lactation and human milk feeding program in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Rush University Medical Center. The clinical program is based on the most up-to-date research about lactation and human milk for premature and other NICU infants. The neonatologists, nurses, dietitians and breast-feeding peer counselors work to share this research with families so that they can work with the NICU staff members to collect, store and feed each mother’s milk using techniques and procedures that most benefit the individual baby.


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