20 Actions in 20 Days: Donor breast milk for babies born for too small and too soon

20 Actions in 20 Days

Surgeon General Regina Benjamin has called on the entire nation to take 20 concrete action steps from the January 2011 Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding to support the removal of barriers to breastfeeding. The United States Breastfeeding Committee is hosting a “20 Actions in 20 Days” campaign to highlight these action steps and implementation strategies.

Action 12: Identify and address obstacles to greater availability of safe banked donor milk for fragile infants.

Babies born too early, too small or with serious health issues typically spend their first days, weeks or months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Research shows that breastmilk can provide important benefits to all babies, but especially the most fragile.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, donated milk can be a suitable alternative for infants whose mothers are unable or unwilling to provide their own milk. A local hospital — one of two in Northeast Florida with a Level III NICU — has started providing donated breastmilk to infants at no cost.

In 2011, Wolfson Children’s Hospital became the first in the region to provide donated breastmilk. Too many babies are born to small and too soon in Northeast Florida: 8.6 percent were low birth weight (<2500 grams) and 13.4 percent of births in 2011 were premature (<37 weeks gestation).

“The research has demonstrated the superiority of breast milk over formula for preemies,” Coalition Executive Director Carol Brady said in a Florida Times-Union article when the program started. “I think this raises the bar for all facilities in supporting breastfeeding for all mothers following delivery.”

The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) operates 12 milk banks serving the United States and Canada. Almost 2.2 million ounces of milk were distributed in 2011, up 17 percent from 2010.

Wolfson receive’s milk from two HMBANA banks, Wakemed Mothers’ Milk Bank in North Carolina and Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas.