Texas Children's Hospital leads the way by feeding 100 percent human breast milk to low birth weight infants in NICU


Because of the proven health benefits for infants, Texas Children's Hospital advocates feeding breast milk to babies and encourages breastfeeding moms nationwide to donate to their local milk bank. Not only does the hospital provide numerous breastfeeding support services, it also follows a protocol of feeding 100 percent breast milk to its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) babies weighing less than 3.3 pounds and relies on donated breast milk from moms to supply critically ill NICU babies with the nutrients they need.

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. Since implementing the feeding protocol in 2009, Texas Children's Hospital reports that NEC rates in its NICU have decreased from the national average of 10-12 percent to just two percent.

"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's 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.

Because shortages of breast milk often occur, breastfeeding expert Nancy Hurst, Ph.D., RN and director of Women's Support Services at Texas Children's, encourages breastfeeding mothers nationwide to consider donating their extra breast milk to a milk bank in their area to help save lives and ensure that vulnerable babies have the best outcomes.

"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 Hurst, who is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. "We depend on the generous women who see the need and donate their extra breast milk to our critically ill babies---their gift touches so many lives."

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, says Hurst, an ideal time to raise awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding and underscore the ongoing need for donated breast milk. Texas Children's is dedicated to providing a variety of lactation and breastfeeding support services to families and patients including a milk bank, breastfeeding classes, lactation support via email and breast pumps.

Nationally recognized as a leading pediatric hospital, Texas Children's Hospital is preparing to move into its new Pavilion for Women, expanding its maternity and women's services. The new pavilion will also be a 100 percent breast milk facility and is scheduled to begin delivering babies in spring 2012. 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 next spring.

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.