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The Story of Annie Grace, as Told by Her Dad, Brandon

My wife, Jessica, had a normal pregnancy and was healthy up until 31 weeks, when she was diagnosed with preeclampsia. Five days later, Annie Grace (or AG, as we lovingly nicknamed her) was born at 32 weeks’ gestation, weighing just 2 lb 8 oz. Seeing my daughter for the first time brought me a brief moment of fear and anxiety, but these feelings were quickly replaced with an immeasurable sense of pride and love. At 4 weeks of age, Annie Grace’s nurses noticed that her belly look distended after a feeding session. They decided to run tests on her for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). NEC, as I came to find out, refers to a disease where the intestines of extremely premature infants become inflamed and can start to die off. I decided to consult Google to see what else I could learn about the disease. Through my online search, I found studies linking NEC to the inability of a premature newborn’s digestive tract to process cow milk-based fortifiers and formulas.

After learning this, I asked AG’s nurses if they’d been fortifying Jessica's breast milk with a cow milk-based product, and they said they had. I was horrified! I’d asked AG’s medical team to run any decision about her care by me prior to taking any action. Unfortunately, I’d been out of town for work on the day they made the decision to fortify. I asked them if they could replace the fortifier with one made from human milk, but they indicated that they did not carry it. I knew from my research online that there was only one company that produced a fortifier made from 100% human milk for babies born weighing less than 1,250 grams, and that was Prolacta Bioscience. All other “human milk” fortifiers are made with cow milk. So I reached out to our extensive network on social media and asked if anyone had any connections to anyone at Prolacta. Fortunately, one of our business partners did, and we were put in contact with Dr. Melinda Elliott, a neonatologist and the senior director of clinical education and professional development at Prolacta. We spoke to her, and she pointed us to research showing us that premature babies who were born weighing between 500 and 1,250 grams and fed Prolact+ H2MF® fortifier added to human milk had 77% lower odds of developing NEC when compared to infants receiving breast milk fortified with cow milk-based fortifier or formula.1

With the help of Prolacta and our hospital’s administrators, we were able get Prolacta fortifier into our NICU. Once on Prolacta, AG’s weight gain became stable and consistent, and her acid reflux subsided. The medical staff noticed how well she was doing on Prolacta and decided to offer all babies born weighing less than 1,250 grams a 100% human milk-based fortifier! Our baby girl was already making an impact on the world! After 34 days in the NICU, Annie Grace was discharged, weighing 4 lb 5 oz.

Today, Annie Grace is 10 months old. 

She’s getting bigger and stronger every day. She is very vocal and has started to move from making normal baby gibberish sounds to making actual intelligible sounds (although sometimes I think we mistaken her gibberish for words... perhaps I'm just an anxious dad hoping she’ll say “da-da”!). She is also very mobile - she crawls, sits up, stands with the help of a nearby object, and walks with the help of a baby walker or holding onto our hands.

Advice to Parents in the NICU

Don’t be afraid to speak up, ask questions, and even question the nurses and doctors about their plan. They have their protocol, and while that may be okay for the masses, it may not be okay for your child.

Mom, Dad and Baby Annie Grace!

Reference

  1. Sullivan S, Schanler RJ, Kim JH, et al. An exclusively human milk-based diet is associated with a lower rate of necrotizing enterocolitis than a diet of human milk and bovine milk based products. J Pediatr. 2010;156(4):562-567. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2009.10.040