Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

Breast Milk Donation: A Priceless Gift for Preemies

breast milk donation NICU feedingThe power of breast milk continues to amaze me. From brain development to immunoprotection, doctors and researchers continue to discover new properties that reaffirm the magic and mystery of mother’s milk. In addition to providing optimal nutrition, breast milk is especially beneficial for preterm and low birthweight babies as it reduces the incidence of Necrotizing Entercolitis (NEC), a common but potentially life-threatening complication of prematurity.

NEC is an intestinal disease that causes swelling of the bowels.  Uncontrolled NEC can cause damage and even tissue death within the bowel, potentially resulting in surgery and both short and long term GI complications. Clinical studies have shown that the incidence of NEC is significantly reduced in preterm and low birthweight babies that are fed breast milk versus formula. Unlike formula, breast milk is rich in antibodies, enzymes, probiotics, and other biological components that provide protective benefits for a preemie’s immature GI system.  As a result, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an exclusive human milk-based diet for premature babies.

Unfortunately, there may be circumstances that restrict a preemie’s access to his own mother’s milk, such as maternal health complications or limited milk supply. For these babies, donor breast milk is a viable option for providing the GI-protective benefits and overall nutritional support that are unique to human milk.

With my firstborn child, I was able to begin breastfeeding within an hour of her birth. However, a complicated emergency c-section with my triplets delayed my breastfeeding efforts by more than two days. I remember the panic that I felt after finally emerging from my post-anesthesia fog and realizing that I was so far behind with my pumping efforts. Yet I was determined to do the best that I could to produce the breast milk that I knew they so desperately needed.

On Day 3, we met with the neonatologist who informed us that all three babies were ready to begin trophic feeds, which are very small volume feedings aimed at priming the GI tract. Wow, so soon? Although I was happy to hear that the babies were well enough to begin feedings, I was so disappointed in myself as I had yet to produce any milk or even colostrum for them to begin their feedings. I felt that I had failed them yet again.

Then, the neonatologist said something that immediately lifted a huge weight from my shoulders. He told me that our NICU had just begun participation in a breast milk donor program through Prolacta BioScience and that our babies could receive donor breast milk with our consent.  Before he could even finish his sentence, I replied with an emphatic yes! And so, our triplets were blessed with the gift of donor breast milk.

Although they only needed donor breast milk for a few days, I feel that those few days made all the difference in giving them the healthiest start for their NICU journey. They received an exclusive breast milk diet and did not experience NEC or any other prematurity-related infections throughout their NICU course.

To the mother who donated her breast milk: I am forever grateful to you and think of you often. I’ll never know your story; whether you donated your milk due to an abundant supply or due to the loss of your own child. Regardless of the reason, your heart was so genuine and your gesture so meaningful.

Thank you for the gift of health that you extended to my children and the gift of time that you extended to me. You literally stood in the gap for me, allowing my body time to recover and begin producing the blessing of mother’s milk for my own children. Your selfless act lit a candle in the dark for three fragile preemies that are now thriving as a result. As my babies grow older, I will tell them how a selfless gift from someone that they will never meet was one of the most priceless gifts that they will ever receive.

** For more information on breast milk donation, please visit Prolacta Bioscience and the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. For more information on necrotizing entercolitis (NEC), please visit the NEC Society.

LaShanda Gordon About LaShanda Gordon

LaShanda Gordon (GA) is a freelance medical writer and the proud mom of triplets and a 'tween. Her preemie journey began when her BGG triplets were delivered at 29 weeks by emergency c-section due to unexplained PPROM. Although the triplets entered the world fast and furiously, their 46-day NICU stay was fairly uneventful with feeding, growing, and respiratory support as the primary focus. Today the triplets are pint-sized toddler personalities who adore their big sister to the moon and back. On her personal blog, Happiness is a Noun, LaShanda writes about the joys, pains, and CERTIFIABLE craziness of life with triplets and a 'tween. There she also shares her thoughts on faith, family, wellness, and career. You can connect with LaShanda through email, Facebook, Pinterest, and her personal blog.

Comments

  1. Prolacta is an awesome company to work with. I had a 32 week preemie in April 2014. He was only 3 lbs and was always a light eater. When he was 3 months old, I had to by a chest freezer because I had SO much milk. By 4 months I began looking for a place to donate my over supply and found Prolacta. After a blood test, lengthy health questionnaire, DNA sample, and letter from my Dr and my sons pediatrician, I was approved as a donor for them. They made the entire process so simple. They sent me all the supplies I needed to store and ship the milk and tested every shipment to be sure it was indeed mine and was safe for use. I am so happy that my donation was able to help someone like you!!

    • Tina, thanks so much for sharing your experience as a breast milk donor. I’m sure your donations have blessed many families. It’s also encouraging to hear that your donor experience with Prolacta Bioscience went so smoothly. Thanks again for your priceless gift!

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