Texas Children’s Mother’s Milk Bank Celebrates One-Year Anniversary

Texas Children's Donor Milk BankThis month celebrates our one-year anniversary since opening the Texas Children’s Mother’s Milk Bank. What a year it’s been! Our primary reason for developing this program is to meet the needs of our smallest and sickest hospitalized infants. Although the majority of women whose newborns require extended hospitalization choose to provide their own milk, it’s not always possible for them to supply enough for their own baby. As the American Academy of Pediatrics stated this year, pasteurized donor breast milk is the next best option to mother’s own milk. Since Houston did not have a donor milk bank and we were experiencing a tremendous growth in our needs, the time seemed right to create our own program at Texas Children’s.

Our mission then as now, is to qualify breastfeeding mothers to donate their excess breast milk for our hospitalized infants — primarily those in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Our goal was to meet the milk volume needs of these babies and we have more than achieved that goal in one short year. The response from women has been both inspirational and humbling.

Since August 2011, a total of 72 women have donated almost 35,000 ounces of milk, from which approximately 350 infants have been the happy recipients.

Bottle in Texas Children's Milk BankFor some infants this may only be for a few feedings until mother’s own milk increases; for others it may represent the majority of their nutrition. Whatever the situation, parents have been very supportive of this vital resource and the positive health outcomes seen in their babies.

So who are these donors? This has definitely been a home-grown initiative. Physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, administrative staff and therapists from various units throughout Texas Children’s have qualified as donors. Over the last year, 8 employees have donated over 3,000 ounces of milk. In addition to Texas Children’s employees, 11 mothers of babies in the neonatal and cardiovascular intensive care units have donated almost 6,000 ounces of their excess milk. Of the remaining 53 women, many have ties to Texas Children’s, either as mothers of former NICU patients or other family and friends. And these ties extend outside the state of Texas. Milk has been shipped from Mississippi, Kentucky, and as far away as Florida.

For a mother to qualify as a donor she must have at least 150 ounces of extra milk to donate. That is enough milk to exclusively feed a premature infant for three weeks. However, some women have gone over and above that volume. The highest donation to date is from one mother who sent over 4,000 ounces of milk — with more on the way. Talk about feeding the entire NICU!

The NICU is not the only area that has benefited from this initiative. With the opening of the Pavilion for Women in March of this year, we recently extended the option of pasteurized donor milk to mothers of healthy newborns on our Mother-Baby unit. Occasionally, a newborn baby may need a few supplemental feedings for low blood sugar levels or significant weight loss in the first few days after birth. In these circumstances, for mothers who wish to provide exclusive breast milk, we now have the capacity to provide donor milk to supplement breastfeeding. This option has been very well received by the families and staff.

Thanks to all our donors for a great first year!

This blog post is co-written by Laurel Laviolette, Donor Milk Coordinator.

About Nancy Hurst, Director of Women's Support Services

I am an international board certified lactation consultant and the Director of Women's Support Services at Texas Children’s Hospital.

I’m the proud mother of 4 adult children (all previously breastfed!) and grandson. I am passionate about providing the best possible support and resources to families who are breastfeeding their infants.

Posted in Breastfeeding, Community, Intensive Care, Motherhood, Pavilion for Women

6 Responses to Texas Children’s Mother’s Milk Bank Celebrates One-Year Anniversary

  1. Christopher Nitkin says:

    Hello!

    I’m only a pediatric resident but have applied for neonatology fellowship and am waiting to hear this fall. I have spent little time in the NICU as a resident (only 8 weeks to date) and am not as fluent in the literature as you or other experienced practitioners may be, but I did a fair bit of reading for a presentation to housestaff and faculty last year, and felt the state of the literature was not 100% definitely in favor of donor breastmilk (as discussed by Dr McGuire in a recent letter in Pediatrics, PMID 22855923).

    In particular, the 2005 article by Schanler et al (PMID 16061595) did not find a significant effect of donor milk over premature formula, although there were various suboptimal methods employed in that study and several subsequent comments noting readers’ concerns. I am curious as to your attitude towards Prolact+ since Sullivan et al (PMID 20036378) showed impressive outcomes with respect to both medical and surgical NEC; at my institution, I understand it was evaluated but the cost-benefit ratio was not found to be favorable.

    I am also interested what method you use to process the donor milk, as the balance between maintaining the biologically-relevant proteins (sIgA, lactoferrin, and lysozome) and killing pathogenic bacteria is a major concern. Of note, Czank et al found that 57 degrees C for 30 minutes was a good compromise (PMID 19581827).

    At my institution, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, we do use donor breast milk and the questions I raise above should not be taken to represent any official CCMC NICU opinion. Again, I have not spent a significant amount of time there (but enough to make me want to become a neonatologist!) so I do not know all the details of the CCMC policy and have only taken care of one infant as a resident for whom we considered using DBM. I write only as an interested observer and aspiring neonatologist.

    Thank you!

    • Dr. Steven Abrams, Neonatologist Dr. Steven Abrams, Neonatologist says:

      Dear Christopher:

      Thank you for your questions and comments. We at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine have participated in several of the studies you described. Although a detailed description and review of the medical literature is beyond the scope of a blog response, we fully support the use of donor human milk when own mother’s milk is limited for high risk infants, especially VLBW ones. The study, conducted at Texas Children’s by Dr. Schanler was not focused on NEC as an outcome and is actually supportive of a benefit, although, not definitive.
      Multiple meta-analysis show a benefit to human milk for prevention of NEC.
      There are at least two common ways to pasteurize human milk, each loses some proteins, but this is not a reason not to use pasteurized milk. A recent study actually did show a cost-benefit for the use of an all human milk protein diet (Hay et al, PMID: 21718117). Of course, more research is needed, but at this time, we encourage the use of donor human milk and further encourage education of all mothers regarding the value of their milk for their own baby and for other babies.

  2. Christopher Nitkin says:

    Dr Abrams, I appreciate your reply and congratulate you on your anniversary. I did not mean to suggest that we should discourage using DBM while we wait for additional research to be done (perhaps as a fellowship project? ;-)… I apologize if I seemed overly critical. Breast milk & nutrition is something that I’ve become interested in, and I agree we should continue educating families (and future providers!) on its benefits. I’ve added that citation to my library, very interesting, thank you! :-)

  3. Patricia Mills says:

    With my first baby, I had massive amounts of milk and no where to donate it, so most of it expired. :( I am expecting baby number 2 in April and would really like to donate this time if I have a supply like last time. I know that I have to donate at least 150 oz. but what are the other requirements? Is there any testing that I would have to pay for? Is there a number that I should call for more information? Thank you so very much!

    • Nancy Hurst, Director of Women's Support Services Nancy Hurst, Director of Women's Support Services says:

      Patricia, thank you for your interest in donating your extra milk to Texas Children’s Mothers’ Milk Bank. Please feel free to call (832) 824-MILK to talk to someone about the process. You can also visit our website – http://www.texaschildrens.org/milk for more information. Congratulations on baby number two! Nancy

  4. Jane Roney, RNC says:

    Hi, I am a nurse on the Mother Baby Unit and we have received positive Donor Milk responses from moms, and dads, who wish to exclusively breastfeed their baby and encounter some initial breastfeeding difficulties or due to other circumstances are not able to breastfeed as planned. They are so thankful!

    Many new moms and dads are very enthusiastic about exclusive breastfeeding and if needing to supplement; choose Donor Breast Milk. As a Mother Baby nurse, it’s an extremely enjoyable, rewarding and fun job to assist and support new parents, and I have observed many new moms and dads teaming up to e.g. syringe feed their newborn with Donor Breast Milk. They are very dedicated and become quite successful in this new baby feeding adventure; and baby tolerates breast milk very well.

    What an amazing and wonderful gift provided by our donor moms. Thank you so very much!

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