It is unanimous: breast milk is the best nutrition one can give a baby. In the case of premature babies, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that these little ones be fed the milk from their own mother. Also, that if the baby weighs less than 1.5 kilograms (about 3 lb 13 oz), the breast milk should be fortified to promote adequate catch-up nutrition.
For babies whose mothers are not yet producing enough breast milk, or for other reasons cannot breastfeeding, pasteurized donor breast milk is an acceptable alternative. Sadly, there are reasons to believe that with the pasteurization process we reduce some healthy components of breast milk that boost the baby’s immune system.
Still, pasteurization is the only safe way to go. This is because we have to ensure that the donor breast milk that we are giving is as clean and safe as it can be before giving it to our babies. Unfortunately, up until today, that is the only method we have to make sure that donor breast milk can be safely used. For this reason, it is not recommended for families to obtain donor breast milk from the internet or directly from another individual. Even if you think you can trust the donor, and you are sure they have all the best intentions.
Unfortunately, it’s not only the intention that counts
I know most of the times donors have really awesome and noble intentions. But we cannot vouch for the safety of that person’s breast milk just based on our trust of character. Not when it comes to the health of your baby. To be more specific, donor milk that is obtained in this way directly from a donor or the internet, we have no way to ensure that it was safely handled, or that it has been tested for bacteria, virus (like HIV, CMV, and Hepatitis), or other sources of contamination.
What is the alternative?
Human breastmilk banks
Human breast milk banks! There are establishes human milk banks that ensure that the process to collect, process and test the donor breast milk is held to the highest standards for baby safety. There are several organizations that dedicate to this, many of them nonprofits run by volunteers with a love for baby health.
Since it is known that human breast milk is so beneficial and especially for premature babies and other at-risk infants, some health insurance companies in some states are reimbursing for this precious drink for the mentioned higher risk populations.
You can visit The Human Milk Bank of North America website to locate a milk bank near you or read more about the subject.
Be safe with donor breastmilk
I wish I had better news for people who maybe thought it would be safe to get donor milk from their Facebook friend, but sadly it is not. If you are looking into donating your milk, please look to see if there is a local organization near you that will safely handle your breast milk so that it was can actually be a gift of nutritious goodness to a preemie somewhere. Don’t put it up for grabs on social media! 😉
OK, I hope you have learned something useful today!
Do you know any preemie or ex-preemie babies? Leave your answer in the comment section below, I would love to hear from you guys.
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Reference: Updates in Infant Nutrition. Dina M. DiMaggio, Amanda Cox, Anthony F. Porto. Pediatrics in Review Oct 2017, 38 (10) 449-462; DOI: 10.1542/pir.2016-0239