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Mom breastfeeding her baby.

Is breast milk best for preemies?

Breast milk is an infant’s most valuable source of nutrients, minerals and disease-fighting antibodies. There is no substitute that completely matches up in nutritional value. This is especially true for premature babies who need that extra “power food” to jump start their development and growth.

“Feeding preemies breast milk has become a standard of care,” says Scott Johnson, M.D., a neonatal specialist at Piedmont. “Studies have proven that premature babies who are fed breast milk have several neurological and developmental advantages.”

Advantages of breast milk

Human milk is the best source of protein, sugar and fat a baby needs to be healthy, especially for preterm babies who struggle during the first days and weeks of their lives. It also contains many substances that benefit a baby’s immune system, including:

  • Antibodies
  • Immune factors
  • Enzymes
  • White blood cells

These substances protect your baby, especially preemies, against a wide variety of diseases and infections not only while they are breastfeeding but for years to come. Formula cannot offer this protection. Other benefits of breast milk include:

  • Lower mortality rate
  • Lower risk of infection
  • Lower risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a gastrointestinal illness that causes death of gastrointestinal tissue
  • Significantly lower incidence of surgery associated with NEC
  • Fewer days of intravenous feedings
  • Leave the hospital sooner

When supply doesn’t meet demand

While mother’s milk is always the best and preferred feeding option for all infants, there are cases in which a mother struggles to produce enough milk. This is especially true for mothers of premature babies. These moms often have an insufficient volume of milk. Donor milk is the next best option.

Piedmont Donor Milk Program offers benefits to preemies

The Piedmont Healthcare team is proud to offer our preemies every opportunity to receive the highest quality human breast milk during their stay at Piedmont. The new Piedmont Donor Milk Program, in partnership with Prolacta Bioscience, is the first donor milk program established in Atlanta.

The composition of breast milk found in standard milk banks across the country is highly variable, with some specimens being low in protein levels and caloric content.

“Prolacta Bioscience has taken donor breast milk to a whole new level by standardizing protein and calorie levels in order to optimize growth of premature babies,” says Dr. Johnson. “Even with the standardization of calories and protein in donor breast milk, premature babies need extra vitamins, minerals, calories and protein in the form of a fortifier that is added to breast milk. This fortifier has been around for years, but has been derived from cow’s milk. Prolacta Bioscience has developed a fortifier from human milk.”

Dr. Johnson has studied the research behind giving preemies exclusively human milk in combination with the Prolacta fortifier derived from human milk and the results are stunning. Units that provide exclusive breast milk combined with the fortifier derived from human milk have seen a 77 percent reduction in NEC, which Dr. Johnson says is a devastating disease with a 50 percent mortality rate.

“This donor milk we now offer is a very precious resource. I am proud of the fact that Piedmont has made a significant commitment to preterm infants in our community, in addition to a significant financial investment in this program.” Dr. Johnson says.

Become a donor

Potential donors with a surplus of breast milk can go online to apply through a simple process that ensures premature infants receive the nutrition they need. For many moms, this will come as a welcome option, since many struggle with what to do with their extra breast milk, and they will now be able to support premature infants in their community, through a process made easy and convenient by Prolacta. 

The milk supply program will be run in partnership with Prolacta to maintain a safe, standardized, and steady supply of pasteurized donor breast milk.

To learn how to become a donor, click here

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