Wolfson Children’s Hospital Brings First Donor Milk Program to North Florida and Southeast Georgia 

Jacksonville, FL, June 2, 2011  Critically ill newborns who are born prematurely and weigh less than 1,500 grams (a little over 2 lbs.) will soon have access to donor human milk. Wolfson Children’s Hospital Newborn Intensive Care program is the first in North Florida and Southeast Georgia to provide donor breast milk for babies who need it. 

“Feeding human milk to a vulnerable, premature baby substantially reduces the risk to that infant of developing a serious and sometimes life-threatening intestinal infection called necrotizing enterocolitis,” says Mark Hudak MD, chief of Neonatology at Wolfson Children’s Hospital and professor of Pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine-Jacksonville. “Even though there are excellent pre-term formulas, none provides the complete nutritional and immunologic benefits of breast milk. In addition to being generally better tolerated than formula, breast milk confers important advantages to the growing brain and the developing eyes.” 

Donor milk has been used in the United States since 1910. In 1943, the American Academy of Pediatrics developed formal guidelines for the operation of donor milk banks. Today’s donor milk banks are certified by the Human Milk Bank Association of North America, ensuring the donor and her breast milk are screened for disease and illegal drugs. Breast milk is donated by new mothers, or by bereaved mothers who have lost a child.

Wolfson Children’s Hospital will receive milk from two donor milk banks: Wakemed Mothers’ Milk Bank in North Carolina and Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas. The donor milk is pasteurized and a nutritional analysis is provided on every bottle for protein, fat, calorie and lactose content. The milk will arrive frozen from the donor to the donor milk bank. It is carefully shipped frozen to the hospital in 2 oz., 4 oz. and 8 oz bottles priority overnight.

Benefits of human milk are widely known, but specific advantages for premature babies result from the effects of multiple factors, including:

  • Growth factor, which promotes the growth and functional maturation of the intestinal tract
  • Prostaglandins, which assist with gastrointestinal motility (possibly assisting digestion)
  • Lactoferrin, a protein that inhibits growth of bacteria in the gut
  • Secretory IgA, which keeps viruses and bacteria from invading the lining of the digestive tract

Breast milk also promotes colonization of the gastrointestinal tract with “good” bacteria such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, which inhibit the growth of other bacteria that can cause infections. 

Although most mothers are able to produce enough breast milk to feed their newborn, some cannot due to medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, infertility-related issues, breast surgery or obesity.

“At Wolfson Children’s Hospital, we want to do the very best for our babies,” says Diane Hutsell, RNC, IBCLC, a certified lactation consultant in the NICU at Wolfson Children’s. “Providing donor breast milk for premature babies who need it is a caring, evidence-based practice that our physicians and nurses recognize and have embraced. This has been one of the most wonderful programs I’ve ever been involved in.”

“Human milk is the nutritional gold standard for babies, and is especially beneficial to premature infants,” says Lisa Lammons, RN, nurse manager of the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “We’re proud to offer this new program to families.”

Wolfson Children's Logo Click here to find out more about Baptist Health