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Donor Human Milk: Is it beneficial?

Human milk offers advantages to all newborns, but particularly benefits low birth weight, premature infants. When infants are born premature and at a low birth weight they are at higher risk for having infections, feeding difficulties, respiratory distress syndrome, intraventricular hemorrhaging, jaundice, and one of the most severe complications is Necrotizing Enterocolitis. When mothers are unable to provide their own breast milk, approved donor human milk is an acceptable, effective alternative that increases survival for fragile infants.

“In NEC, there is typically swelling of the bowels, gas in the bowel walls, and free air in the abdomen (belly).”

“In NEC, there is typically swelling of the bowels, gas in the bowel walls, and free air in the abdomen (belly).” Image ©AboutKidsHealth.ca – Kidshealth.org

Necrotizing Enterocolitis

Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) is condition that attacks the intestinal tract, by damaging or destroying it (The more premature and smaller the infant the higher risk of NEC).

However, research shows that compared to formula, human milk is associated with lower occurrence of NEC and other infections during the initial hospital stay.

Additionally, donor human milk can help prevent NEC which could lessen hospitalization stay by two weeks, saving anywhere from $128,000 to $238,000.

Components of Human Milk

Human milk is composed of enzymes that help your baby with digestion, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, hormones, and antibodies.

Also, human milk helps to repair the intestine if they become infected, fights infections, promotes brain development, and provides ideal nutrition.

“Donor human milk is thoroughly mixed to ensure even distribution of nutritional components” www.hmbana.org

“Donor human milk is thoroughly mixed to ensure even distribution of nutritional components” www.hmbana.org

Is Donor Milk Safe?

All donors must be screened and approved before donating their milk. Once a donor is approved, her milk can be dropped off at various depot sites throughout the state. The milk must be logged and monitored.

Milk is then transferred to a Milk Bank for cleaning, pouring, bottling, pasteurizing, bacteria testing, and freezing.

Finally, the milk is sent to fragile infants in need, either in homes or hospitals.

Should I Donate?

Any mother interested in donating is highly encouraged to make her own informed decision. Regardless of the reason why a mother chooses to donate, approved donor milk can save lives of infants born too soon or too small.

Source:

  1. Herrmann, Kenneth, and Katherine Carroll. “An Exclusively Human Milk Diet Reduces Necrotizing Enterocolitis.” Breastfeeding Medicine: The Official Journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., 1 May 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4025624/.
  2. “Milk Banking FAQ.” MUSC Health | Charleston, SC, musckids.org/our-services/milk-bank/faq.
  3. “Premature Babies.” March of Dimes, www.marchofdimes.org/complications/premature-babies.aspx.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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