When babies are born prematurely, mothers may still be waiting for their breast milk to come in, or they may not produce it at all. Since formula can be harsher on baby’s digestive system, especially those born before 32 weeks, parents often choose to feed their baby donor breast milk.
The donor milk depot in Community Regional Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit helps the tiniest babies by supplying the donor milk they need–to help them thrive.
Donor milk is given to about 20 to 25 premature babies a month. For anybody who’s under 32 weeks gestation and under 1500 grams, there’s a program that facilitates that donation to them by parent consent. The parent would have to agree to get that for their baby and then we facilitate that for those infants.
Donna Wyman is the NICU manager at Community Regional and she explains why a premature baby would need breast milk from a donor.
“A lot of premature moms have gone through a lot to get to that baby to a certain gestation, and so I might not produce as quickly; I might not have enough milk later, it just depends, there’s a lot of mechanisms to help mothers create that milk, some mothers can do it and others have a harder time so to help them during that time where they’re trying to get their milk production up, we have the donor milk program for them,” Wyman said.
Babies born under 32 weeks also have an underdeveloped stomach and gastrointestinal tract.
“Formulas are so hard for premature infants to digest as a premature infant my stomach and my gastrointestinal tract are very immature, so trying to give me something that digests very quickly and with ease is what the donor breast milk is helpful for if mom doesn’t have her own milk,” Wyman said.
Rose Montes is a NICU technician and she encourages mothers who can donate, to do so.
“We take a look and see if there’s an abundance and if we have a mom in particular, who we see that is producing a ton then we go ahead and I approach her and I talk to her a little bit about mothers’ milk, ” Montes said.
Donor milk is sent to the mothers’ milk bank in San Jose, where it undergoes a meticulous screening process. It gets tested and pasteurized and is the second best thing for a newborn baby– right behind a mother’s own breast milk. The mother’s milk bank supplies the depot at Community Regional–where more than 600 ounces a month are used for their tiniest patients.
Rose says donating extra breast milk is like giving blood–a donor can help save a baby’s life.
“We always let them know that this is something that not all moms can do easily and is very beneficial to our preemie babies, especially to our preemie babies who everything is under developed,” Rose said.
“A lot of our moms have a lot of milk for whatever reason and so if they have a great surplus it does help and touch others to be able to use that breast milk for these premature infants,” Wyman added.
Both Donna and Rose say they’re grateful for the donor milk program–to be able to give premature babies the nutrition they need. It gives moms a chance to catch up with their natural breast milk supply.
If you would like to learn more about donating breast milk, contact the NICU at Community Regional at 559-459-3961.