Prolacta in the News
Victoria E. Freile Democrat and Chronicle
Babies with very low birth weights are now drinking donated breast milk in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at UR Medicine's Golisano Children's Hospital.
The donor milk program launched Monday for premature babies weighing less than 3.3 pounds.
“There is overwhelming evidence that breast milk provides the best nutrition for premature infants and has long-term, potentially lifesaving benefits,” said Dr. Jeffrey Meyers, medical director of the NICU. “A mother’s own milk is always best, but mothers are not always able to provide breast milk or produce enough. Donor milk is the next best thing and is nearly as protective as mother’s milk."
The use of donor milk in NICUs is a growing trend across the country.
Studies indicate that breast milk provides the best protection against a wide variety of illnesses and potential life-threatening complications for premature infants.
Through this program, the hospital's smallest patients can receive a fortifier made with donor milk — instead of formula — which has been shown to decrease the risk of feeding complications and infections, according to the hospital. Most preemies need an added fortifier in breast milk to ensure they are receiving enough protein, fat, vitamins and nutrients.
Angelica Pizzo, whose twin boys were born nearly 16 weeks early on Oct. 31, is among the first to utilize Golisano Children's Hospital's new program. She is pumping milk to feed her sons, but the boys are also consuming donor milk with the added fortifier.
"Hearing about this new program was a huge relief because I knew that no matter what, our babies would get what they needed,” Pizzo said. Her sons each weighed around 1.5 pounds when they were born. "To be able to have this program as an option is truly a blessing.”
The program will affect about 200 babies a year, Rachel Steffen, a NICU nurse and program team leader, said in a news release.
“This is a major advancement that brings us in line with the ‘gold standard’ of nutrition for premature infants," she said.
The new program required approval from the New York State Department of Health. Technicians started preparing donor milk products in a NICU nutrition lab this week.
Pasteurized donor milk and fortifiers used at Golisano Children's Hospital comes from California-based milk bank Prolacta Bioscience, Meyers said. Donors are screened for viruses, illegal drugs and nicotine.
Cori Ann Zinter, whose twin sons were born more than nine weeks early in February 2016, said she thinks the new program "is phenomenal."
Zinter, 31, of Honeoye Falls, said she felt lucky that she was able to produce enough breast milk to feed both of her sons while in the NICU. Fortifier was added to the expressed milk for her boys.
"I can't express how great this is for mothers in the NICU who aren't able to produce enough milk (for their children) or any milk at all," she said.
Zinter donated more than 130 extra ounces of expressed milk to a milk bank, but said she'd rather see the milk used by local babies in need.
While moms with excess milk cannot donate directly to Golisano Children's Hospital, there are local donation programs in place. Those donations, however, don't circle back to Rochester-area hospitals.
"We pretty much always have milk in our freezer, ready to donate," said BBC co-owner Julia Sittig.
In the past year, more 10,000 ounces of donor milk has been shipped to Westchester County, where the New York Milk Bank processes donated breast milk, Sittig said. The milk is pasteurized and distributed to feed babies in need, mostly in hospitals.
Women who complete the screening process, which includes an interview, medical screening and a blood draw, can donate at any of the bank's 29 milk depots. The process takes two to six weeks to complete. Moms who smoke, take illegal drugs or drink excessively, for example, cannot donate.
Prolacta also accepts breast milk donations through its partner milk banks across the country.