Babies need breast milk – especially the premature and critically ill babies in Saint Francis Medical Center’s Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics and numerous other healthcare experts agree that breastfeeding is the best food source for these fragile, low-weight babies.
More and more research is being done showing the positive effects of breast milk, especially for premature babies. That’s why the lactation consultants at Saint Francis encourage mothers to pump their own breast milk – it’s the best nutrition for their baby. Human milk provides unique health, immunological and developmental benefits, including long-term decreased risk of a wide range of illness and infections that last far beyond infancy.
To ensure that all babies get the breast milk they need, Saint Francis’ Level III NICU has recently become the first in the region to utilize donor human breast milk from the Indiana Mothers’ Milk Bank (IMMB). This milk has been carefully tested for safety, pasteurized and then frozen. As a Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) milk bank, IMMB follows strict guidelines, with full lifestyle and health screenings for all prospective milk donors. For babies whose mothers are not able to provide enough breast milk on a daily basis, donor breast milk is a godsend.
Mother’s own milk is always the best choice, but when unavailable or insufficient, pasteurized donor human milk is the next best option. Even though donor breast milk is very expensive, implementation of its use will decrease morbidity and mortality, improve neurodevelopmental outcomes and shorten hospital stays.
Saint Francis physicians are equally excited about this new source of breast milk, since it will help protect babies against dangerous diseases like necrotizing enterocolitis, a life-threatening gastrointestinal illness affecting premature infants.
“Milk banks like these are being used by NICUs across the country,” says Laura E. Al-Sayed, MD, FAAP, neonatologist at Saint Francis. “It’s a big step for Saint Francis, and a great advantage for our babies.”