Texas Children's Hospital launches new donor breast milk program

Texas Children's Hospital has launched a donor milk program to help provide for the nutritional needs of newborns in the hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Because of the proven health benefits for infants, the hospital follows a protocol of feeding 100 percent breast milk to its NICU babies weighing less than 3.3 pounds. Because there is a shortage of breast milk and some moms can't produce enough to meet their infants' needs, Texas Children's is asking nursing mothers in the local community to donate their excess breast milk to ensure an ample supply for the 3,000 critically-ill babies treated at Texas Children's Newborn Center each year.

"We are fortunate to have some of the world's experts in human milk feeding in premature infants and human donor milk is part of our comprehensive nutritional program at Texas Children's Newborn Center to ensure the safe growth of our high-risk infants," said Dr. Stephen E. Welty, chief of neonatology and head of the Newborn Center at Texas Children's Hospital and professor of pediatrics-neonatology in the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. "We have seen marked improvement in outcomes of our high-risk infants since implementing our feeding protocol," he said.

Studies have shown that premature infants who are exclusively fed human breast milk have lower incidences of developing an often fatal intestinal infection called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and other complications such as gastrointestinal disturbances. Texas Children's Hospital reports that since their 100 percent breast milk feeding protocol was implemented in 2009, NEC rates in their NICU have decreased from the national average of 10-12 percent to just two percent.

"The evidence is overwhelming that a mother's milk is absolutely the best nutrition a baby can have, which is why we feed only breast milk to the babies in our NICU," said breastfeeding expert Nancy Hurst, Ph.D., RN and director of Women's Support Services at Texas Children's Hospital. "We are grateful to all of the women who see the need and donate their extra breast milk to our critically-ill babies---their gift touches so many lives."

Hurst, who is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, notes that donating breast milk is easy and that mothers who would like to help Texas Children's tiniest patients can visit www.texaschildrens.org/milk to complete an online registration form and assessment questionnaire. After the application is reviewed, potential milk donors will then be contacted to complete a free blood test screening that can be done at one of more than 25 conveniently located Houston-area medical labs. Once a donor is approved, she will receive a FedEx package, materials and instructions so that she can she can pump her extra breast milk from the comfort of her own home. Hurst says often moms have a supply of excess frozen milk in their refrigerators that they no longer need and this can be donated up to 12 months after it has been expressed. For more information and to read frequently asked questions about the program, visit www.texaschildrens.org/milk.

According to Hurst, nursing moms donate for a variety of reasons. Some moms donate their extra milk to help babies in need because they have had a preterm baby or know someone who has. Others choose to donate because they know they are helping babies right in their own community.

To ensure supplies of donor milk, Texas Children's utilizes processor Prolacta Bioscience to conduct thorough donor testing and to pasteurize donor milk. Prolacta operates a large, pharmaceutical grade facility that will ensure enough capacity to meet Texas Children's needs. Moms can learn more about Prolacta by visiting their website, www.prolacta.com.

Hurst said the timing is right to reach out to potential donor moms as the hospital prepares to move into its new Texas Children's Pavilion for Women and expand its maternity and women's services. The new Pavilion for Women will also be a 100 percent breast milk facility and is scheduled to begin delivering babies in spring, 2012. Given the expected increase in newborns after the Pavilion for Women opens, Hurst wants to be sure that Texas Children's own breast milk donation program is widely known. "We are confident that nursing moms who have excess milk will want to help, especially knowing that their donation is directly supporting Texas Children's Hospital and the babies in our care," she said.

Currently in the final stages of construction in the Texas Medical Center, the 15-story, state-of-the-art Texas Children's Pavilion for Women will be one of the nation's premier facilities for women's, fetal and newborn health, offering a full continuum of comprehensive family-centered care, beginning before conception and continuing after delivery. Outpatient services are scheduled to be open first, in winter, 2011 with inpatient services slated for spring 2012.

About Texas Children’s Hospital

Texas Children’s Hospital, a not-for-profit health care organization, is committed to creating a healthier future for children and women throughout the global community by leading in patient care, education and research. Consistently ranked as the best children’s hospital in Texas, and among the top in the nation, Texas Children’s has garnered widespread recognition for its expertise and breakthroughs in pediatric and women’s health. The hospital includes the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute; the Feigin Center for pediatric research; Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, a comprehensive obstetrics/gynecology facility focusing on high-risk births; Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus, a community hospital in suburban West Houston; and Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands, a second community hospital planned to open in 2017. The organization also created the nation’s first HMO for children, has the largest pediatric primary care network in the country and a global health program that’s channeling care to children and women all over the world. Texas Children’s Hospital is affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine. For more information, go to www.texaschildrens.org. Get the latest news by visiting the online newsroom and Twitter at twitter.com/texaschildrens.