Importance of Mother’s Own Milk
A mother’s own milk is the best source of nutrition for newborn babies because it provides immune protection and it promotes optimal growth and development. Studies show that babies who receive their mother’s milk have a lower risk of getting several diseases than babies who are fed formula. However, we know there are special situations when mother’s own milk is not available or supplemental feedings are medically indicated. In these special situations, there are two feeding choices: pasteurized donor human milk or commercial formula.
Milk donors are mothers who choose to share their extra milk with others in need. These mothers have special instructions for collecting, storing, and getting their milk to the milk bank. They are not paid for their milk and are screened with spoken, written, and blood testing steps that include HIV testing. Donor mothers must be healthy and cannot donate if they are on certain medications or have risk factors for diseases that can be passed into milk.
Milk Processing and Milk Bank Safety
WW Health receives donor human milk from The Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes. When donor milk is received at the milk bank’s processing facility, it is stored in a deep freezer until it is processed and pasteurized. During pasteurization, donor milk is heat-‐treated for 30 minutes to a temperature that kills viruses and bacteria. Pasteurization changes some of the properties in milk, but many important immune properties remain and these are not found in formula. These important properties may help to protect babies against disease. The Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes follows food-‐processing guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). The milk bank also follows guidelines developed by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). HMBANA regulates non-‐profit milk banks in the United States and Canada.
Benefits and Risks of Pasteurized Donor Human Milk
Babies who are fed donor milk instead of formula may experience decreased feeding intolerance and optimal gut colonization (with beneficial bacteria). Donor milk contains many bio-active factors, including special proteins like antibodies and antimicrobial sugars that are not present in formula. While there are many benefits, there are also potential risks associated with using donor milk. If your baby has a food allergy, he or she may react to an allergen in donor milk. Commercial formula may also contain allergens. Milk bank regulations and processes are followed to keep donor milk free of bacteria (donor screening and blood testing, pasteurization, post-‐pasteurization bacterial testing). There has never been a case of bacterial contamination in HMBANA’s 30-‐year history of milk banking; however any food or drink, including infant formula and donor milk, may become contaminated. The theoretical risk of harm from bacterial contamination in donor milk is minuscule. Your baby’s provider will determine whether the benefits of using PDHM outweigh the potential risks.
WW Health has several experienced Lactation Consultants available to support you and your baby. If you have questions, please contact the Birth Center at 715-684-1111.