According to the HMBANA website, human milk offers all infants optimal nutrition, easy digestibility and immunologic protection against many organisms and diseases. Human milk also contains growth factors that can protect immature tissue; promote maturation, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract; and promote healing of tissue damaged by infection.
Common reasons for prescribing donor milk, according to HMBANA, include prematurity, allergies, feeding/formula intolerance, immunologic deficiencies, post-operative nutrition, infectious diseases and inborn errors of metabolism.
Mannel said there is still some controversy for physicians on whether or not donor milk is superior to formula for preterm babies. Since the age of viability has decreased, the appropriate growth rate — and type of growth — for preterm infants is still being researched.
“We know how they should grow in utero but once they’ve been born early, do you fatten them up really fast? Or do you first focus on bone/brain growth and not worry about overall weight?” Mannel said. “So one of the concerns with donor milk is it’s not a high-fat product. ... A physician focused on rapid weight-gain is not going to be happy with donor milk, but if you’re looking at bone growth, brain development and immunological protection there’s no question on that.”
Fortunately, each batch of processed milk at the Oklahoma bank is screened for nutritional content so that prescriptions can be ordered for desired nutritional, fat and calorie content, Mannel said.
“It helps clinicians determine what milk they want to order and what fortification might be needed for a particular baby,” she said.
Hale said University of Oklahoma Children’s Hospital and INTEGRIS now use donor milk with about five additional hospitals on board to begin soon. With such high demand, the bank’s goal is to provide 30,000 ounces of donor milk in its first year of operation.