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retinopathy of prematurity
with clinically shown human milk–based nutritional productsLearn more
Our quality and safety standards for human milk are modeled on the US plasma and blood industry
Our breast milk donors are carefully screened and instructed on best practices; all human milk is DNA matched to the donor and tested for pathogens, viruses, adulterants, and the presence of nicotine, marijuana, opiates, and other substances
Not only do we respect what human milk does naturally, we also believe in adding to the growing body of clinical evidence to better understand how human milk can benefit critically ill, premature infants.
To help hospitals address the complications of prematurity, Prolacta is the first company to offer a complete line of human milk–based nutritional products for use in the NICU.
More than 70,000 premature infants throughout the world have experienced proven clinical benefits from Prolacta’s 100% human milk–based nutritional products.5
Supplementing mother’s own milk with the first commercially available human milk–based fortifier made from 100% human donor milk, and added essential minerals, instead of cow milk
When premature infants need additional calories to support their growth, this human milk–based caloric fortifier delivers
When mother’s milk is not available, this ready-to-feed, human milk–based product offers NICUs an alternative to cow milk formula
When an adequate supply of mother’s milk is not available, donor milk is rapidly becoming the standard of care for feeding premature infants
“My second pregnancy was a difficult journey. I ended up in the emergency room several times for vaginal bleeding. A few months later, I woke up one morning feeling tightness around my stomach, lower back pain, and pressure near my abdomen similar to what I had experienced when I was in labor with my previous child. I went to the hospital and it was there that my water broke. I was only 25 weeks and 1 day pregnant. The medical team managed to keep me pregnant a few days longer.
Just four days later I underwent an emergency cesarean delivery. Willow was born at 25 weeks and 4 days, weighing 1 lb 10 oz (737 g). We were both septic. After my water broke, I had developed an infection which had spread to my placenta.”
“As a nursing student, I was terrified about having a premature baby because I learned about everything that could go wrong. But we were lucky: Willow spent just 69 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and ended up coming home six weeks before her due date, which is very rare for premature babies born as early as she was. She managed to avoid getting necrotizing enterocolitis, patent ductus arteriosus, and any brain bleeds.
Seventeen years earlier, my sister was born at 27 weeks and I remember what my parents went through with her; she had heart surgery and brain bleeds. My parents were a great comfort and resource throughout this NICU experience. Like many expectant moms, I never anticipated that I would have my baby so early. It was this experience, and the one with my sister, that led me to decide to become a NICU nurse.”
"I began pumping my breastmilk right away and continued to pump around the clock throughout Willow’s NICU stay. Soon after she was born, Willow began receiving Prolacta’s 100% human milk–based fortifiers. The fortifiers were added to my breastmilk to give her a 100% human milk–based diet. I researched the products and was pleased when I learned that they helped lower the risk of health complications for preemies in the NICU.”
“After 69 days in the NICU Willow was able to come home. She weighed 4 lbs 11 oz. She was still small, but because she was growing so well and had no complications, she was given the green light to go home. She turned two years old in April and is meeting all her developmental milestones: She is walking, talking, and running. Her cognitive skills are like those of a 3 year old. She’s too smart—a little troublemaker!
Willow is our miracle baby. We liked the name but weren’t 100 percent sure about it. But after our experience in the NICU, it seemed perfect. It means stability, hope, and healing.”
“Don’t hesitate to ask questions and advocate for your baby. As their parent, you will know them better than anyone. Don’t be afraid to be emotional—it’s totally normal. Look for a NICU support group on social media. I joined one on Facebook, where I found a community of women who were going through similar experiences. It was in those groups that I learned that babies even smaller than Willow were thriving, and that gave me hope.”
“It took my husband James and I a long time to conceive. So, we were overjoyed when I finally became pregnant but also extremely anxious. Everything seemed to be going smoothly, up until my 29th week when I was admitted to the hospital for severe preeclampsia. My blood pressure was super-high (160 and later 180) and I had a migraine that lasted 72 hours. My doctor ordered an ultrasound and discovered that our baby was measuring in at 23 weeks, even though I was 29 weeks along."
"Then, just a few days later I had an emergency cesarean delivery, and Jahaan was born at 29 weeks and 5 days. He weighed 1 lb 14 oz (849 grams). Before I could even see him, Jahaan was rushed out of the delivery room. I later learned that he had come out purple and limp and startled the medical staff when he began breathing on his own.
Jahaan overcame a lot during his neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) stay. Jaundice, anemia, and spells where his heart rate would drop and his breathing would cease. While these types of spells are common among preemies in the NICU, the nurses were concerned that Jahaan was not outgrowing them. They ran bloodwork and found that he had an elevated bilirubin level caused by a urinary tract infection. He was given antibiotics and it was then that we finally began to see him gain weight. James and I monitored his weight closely: My husband works in finance, so he built a spreadsheet to help us calculate it. We were tracking his growth every day like crazy people—every time he hit another pound, we had a little party.
It’s scary not knowing if your baby’s going to make it. Jahaan was in the NICU for 61 days, so almost nine weeks but it felt like a century. Luckily my husband and I have a very strong foundation. We were best friends before we got married. We’ve been together for 10 years. He was my rock; I was a total wreck. His positivity helped me pull through.”
“I had a really good supply and a very pushy lactation nurse. I was pumping every three hours as soon as I gave birth. When Jahaan was first born, he was having two milliliters of breastmilk every three hours—just a few drops.”
“Jahaan was on Prolacta for five weeks. I remember being told that the fortifier would help him gain weight. We got him to gain weight thanks to a combination of things and I’m confident that Prolacta fortifiers had a hand in this. Once they figured out that he had an infection and put him on antibiotics, that was a big turning point.”
“Jahaan came home weighing 5 lbs 2 oz. Now, he’s almost one year old and is close to 18 lbs. He’s our miracle baby. He’s a super-happy kid. We think it’s because he entered the world in hard mode. He got poked when other babies were comforted. Mama was his first word; I still melt every time he says it. And he says Baba, which is what we call his dad. We call him our little Chindian—he’s half Indian and half Taiwanese. He’s rolling on his tummy both ways. He’s not crawling quite yet, but close. He’s sitting up. He’s performing at the level of his adjusted age (nine months).”
“Make sure you’re doing everything you can but don’t drive yourself crazy and make yourself feel guilty. Your baby has to bake longer. Don’t feel like you have to constantly be there; you’re there for them more than you realize. Get involved with your baby’s care—things like diaper changes, temperature checks, and giving them baths will help you bond. Find community in places like Instagram. Dear NICU Mama spoke to my soul: Their whole approach is, like, ‘you’re blaming yourself, you shouldn’t. Be proud of how far you’ve come.’ I was like, ‘Okay, I’m not alone.’ These are all thoughts that other NICU moms have had before.”
Stephanie experienced several complications during her pregnancy that included an incompetent cervix and a bacterial infection of the placenta and amniotic fluid. These complications caused Stephanie to go into early labor and at just 25 weeks baby Dylan was born.
He weighed 1 lb 14 oz (850 g) at birth. Being so small, Dylan needed to gain weight to get stronger. Fortunately, the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) was ready with just what he needed: human milk–based fortifiers from Prolacta to supplement mother’s own milk.
“As soon as I delivered, the doctors informed us about Prolacta products and their benefits. That's when my research started,” Stephanie says. “I do clinical research for a living, and I wanted to know everything there was to know about this fascinating product. When we found out more about this liquid gold, we were overjoyed our NICU had it as an option, as we know not all NICUs have this as an option.”
The challenges Dylan needed to overcome in the NICU included respiratory distress syndrome, acid reflux, an eye disorder, and immature bowels. But Dylan was able to overcome these challenges with the help of a 100% human milk–based diet (which includes mother’s own milk and Prolacta fortifiers).
“According to the docs, he gained weight better than any premature baby they had seen in quite some time,” Stephanie says.
After being on Prolacta fortifiers until about 32 weeks, Dylan was switched to a cow milk–based fortifier. “We all noticed an immediate difference. He was more gassy, irritable, and had difficulty passing bowel movements, which they attributed to his immature gastrointestinal system,” remembers Stephanie.
“We were fortunate enough to no longer need the cow milk–based fortifier for him to continue to grow and thrive, but the Prolacta fortifier was there in the beginning when he needed it the most. We are ever so grateful for it. We truly believe if our son had been on a cow milk–based fortifier from the beginning, he would have had a much more complex NICU stay,” she says.
Stephanie says that during Dylan’s time in the NICU, the staff became like family. “We saw them more than we were able to see our own family during the pandemic. Many nurses, doctors, social workers, lactation consultants, and nutritionists made us feel comfortable.”
After 113 days in the NICU, Dylan gained sufficient weight and was well enough to go home. He is now about six months old and developing normally. “He is currently meeting all of his adjusted-age milestones and even some of his actual-age milestones,” Stephanie says.
To other preemie parents who may be struggling through the NICU experience, Stephanie’s best advice is acceptance. “NICU parents are a special kind of parent. There’s no rhyme or reason why we were chosen for this journey. You will feel grateful and dismayed all in the same breath, but your outlook on life will never be the same.”
After having experienced two premature births and a recent miscarriage, Christina felt nervous about her new pregnancy. She was suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum (persistent vomiting and nausea during pregnancy), and she knew something just wasn’t right.
At about 26 weeks, Christina went to the hospital. “I had dropped over 20 pounds and was very dehydrated,” she remembers. “The doctors hydrated me and gave me medicine to stop my contractions, but the baby’s heart rate was really low. After a few days, when they couldn’t find his heartbeat easily, I had to go immediately for an emergency cesarean delivery.”
Crew was born weighing 2 lbs 7 oz (1,105 g). But his weight dropped more than a pound by the next day. Christina was producing plenty of her own milk since she was still breastfeeding her two-year-old son, but tiny Crew needed even more nutrients. Luckily, the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) had just what Crew needed to gain weight and survive: Prolacta’s human milk–based fortifiers to supplement mother’s own milk.
“When they wheeled me down to the NICU, the first thing they handed me was a Prolacta pamphlet, a human milk fortifier pamphlet, and a donor pamphlet letting me know that I had a ton of choices,” she says.
During most of Crew’s 67 days in the NICU, he received approximately two-thirds of his calories from Prolacta fortifiers and one-third from mother’s own milk. “He gained enough weight that at 36 weeks, they let him go home small at only 4 lbs 6 oz because he was eating so well,” says Christina.
While in the NICU, doctors found a hole in Crew’s heart—a condition called patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). The PDA caused a heart murmur and breathing difficulties. The NICU was able to put him on small, continuous feeds of Prolacta fortifiers combined with mother’s own milk to help him grow stronger while fighting the PDA.
“Now that Crew is at home, the PDA is resolving itself,” Christina says, “It is very small now and he will not need surgery to close it. It should go away.”
Another challenge in the NICU was an emotional one: Crew’s two big brothers were not allowed to visit him due to COVID-19 restrictions. “My six-year-old, Cade, and two-year-old, Finley, couldn’t come with me to the hospital. Only my husband and I could be in there,” says Christina. “At 32 weeks, when Crew got a room with a window, I would hold him up to the window so his brothers could see him from the parking garage!”
Despite facing all of these hurdles, Crew is thriving now. At three months old—or three days, age adjusted—Crew smiles a lot, holds up his head, and finishes his bottles in just a few minutes. Reflecting on the NICU experience, Christina is happy that a 100% human milk diet was available for Crew. “My understanding is that it’s what’s best for them, better on their stomachs, and helps them grow faster and develop better. Formula made from cow milk is harsh on their bellies. Crew really hates formula,” she says.
Just for fun, Christina created an Instagram page to share Crew’s story and ended up with over 16,000 followers. She now has a platform to help other preemie parents. Her advice is to not be afraid to ask the doctors questions, trust that they are going to help your baby, and join support groups online for someone to talk to. “The NICU is very hard, and it’s okay to not be okay at first, but you need to find a way to be okay for your baby,” she says.
Christina is now interested in becoming a milk donor for Prolacta. She is also considering a career as a lactation consultant in the future.
A few years ago, we shared the story of De Onna and her premature son, Micaiah, who benefitted from receiving Prolacta’s human milk–based fortifiers in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). That experience inspired De Onna to help other preemies by donating her excess breastmilk to Tiny Treasures Milk Bank, where it was used to make the same Prolacta products that helped Micaiah.
Little did De Onna know then that, in 2019, she would end up having another premature baby—this time a girl, LaMaia. Due to complications with De Onna’s cervix, LaMaia was born at 24 weeks gestation via emergency cesarean delivery, weighing 1 lb 2 oz (521 g).
Knowing What to Ask in the NICU
At only a few weeks old, LaMaia underwent surgery for a perforated bowel. Doctors placed drains on both sides of her stomach and monitored her closely for severe reflux. Based on De Onna’s previous experience in the NICU, she knew that the right human milk–based nutrition was important for getting LaMaia through her NICU stay and she made sure to ask the staff if Prolacta’s fortifiers were being administered.
“I remembered that it’s really good for development, and the fact that it’s human milk helps with all the recovery issues,” De Onna says. “When LaMaia needed that surgery, I wanted to make sure that Prolacta products were what she was still getting. I asked a couple of times to make sure they didn’t switch. I knew that would help with her tummy issues.”
During her 103-day stay in the NICU, LaMaia recovered not only from the surgery but also from a heart murmur, brain bleeds, and non-surgical necrotizing enterocolitis. She left the hospital weighing 5 lb 8 oz (2508 g), and after some follow-up doctor visits to resolve retinopathy of prematurity and digestive issues, LaMaia is doing great. She is now nine months old and weighs 13 lb (5897 g)! Her older brother and fellow preemie, Micaiah, is also still doing well at four years old, with no major health or developmental issues.
Paying It Forward: Advising Other Parents and Donating Milk
Having gone through the NICU experience twice, De Onna is helping other preemie parents by sharing advice and resources at the hospital, doctors’ offices, and in her church group—she even plans to write a blog and book about her experiences.
“I found [that] a lot of new preemie parents didn’t know about things like early intervention, Medicaid eligibility, and the online resources I knew about,” says De Onna. “I tell them to take it one day at a time. It sounds cliché, but all you can do is try to remain positive … and become friends with the nurses!”
De Onna continued giving back by donating her excess breastmilk after LaMaia was born. “It was important to me because I know the benefits. Both of my babies benefitted from it. So, I’m just paying it forward to other moms,” she says. “Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and working full time, I had to stop recently. I just sent in my last two coolers and felt a little sad … I didn’t know it would be so emotional.”
Research suggests some premature infants may go home from the NICU Up to 3 weeks earlier when fed Prolacta’s 100% human milk-based nutritional products; those with bronchopulmonary dysplasia may benefit the most
Finding my sales representative
Support with an existing order
Getting products for my baby
Donating my milk