Benefits of Donor Breast Milk

06-01-2021 | Posted in General News

Why choose donor human milk?

Donor human milk is recommended by the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and the European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) for premature or vulnerable babies in circumstances where mother’s own milk is not available.

The World Health Organisation-  WHO recommends that LBW infants should be fed mother’s own milk. When a mother’s own breast milk is not available, the alternatives are either expressed breast milk from a donor mother or formula milk. Available evidence shows that compared with formula, donor human milk is associated with lower incidence of the severe gut disorder, necrotising enterocolitis, and other infections during the initial hospital stay after birth.

Benefits of donor milk in the feeding of preterm infants

Mother’s own milk is widely recognized as the optimal feeding for term infants, but also provides health benefits that are of vital importance for sick and preterm infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), even though the growth and neurodevelopmental needs of very premature infants are best met by appropriate fortification of human milk (HM). When mother’s milk is unavailable or in short supply, donor milk (DM) represents the second best alternative and, although some nutritional elements are inactivated by the pasteurization process, it still has documented advantages compared to formula. Occasionally, the concern that the use of DM might decrease breastfeeding is being raised, but reports exist in literature showing that the use of donor HM in the NICU increases breastfeeding rates at discharge for VLBW infants. The demonstrated benefits of HM highlight the importance of educating health care professionals in breastfeeding support.

Using donor milk

In 2010, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) published guidelines for the running of milk banks in the UK. Although there are no hard-and-fast rules for babies who can receive donor milk, it is a precious resource and so its use is concentrated on babies who will benefit most. These include very premature babies (born at <32 weeks), those who have had surgery on their intestines, babies with major heart abnormalities, and babies who have a sibling who is receiving donor milk. Parents can also request the use of donor milk, and we would be happy to support you with information for healthcare professionals or the latest evidence related to the advantages of donor milk:

Protection from infection

When a mother is unable to provide any or enough of her own breastmilk, donor breastmilk is often the preferred alternative to infant formula (or artificial milk). This is because donor breastmilk still contains many of the protective factors (such as immunoglobulins) which help protect premature babies from infection and are not present in formula which is prepared from cow’s milk.

Protection from necrotising enterocolitis

Donor breastmilk may also have a protective role against the serious gut condition necrotising enterocolitis which mainly affects premature babies. Babies who receive breastmilk alone are at a significantly lower risk than those who receive formula, but the reasons for this remain unclear.

Easier to digest

A preterm baby’s intestine is very immature and can digest and absorb breastmilk more easily than formula milk. Premature babies are fed small amounts of breastmilk to help their gut mature and the volumes fed are increased gradually. This is also true for babies who have had surgery on their gut.

Human Milk Pasteurisers

Sterifeed are the global market leader for Human Milk Pasteurisers, with over 400 Pasteurisers running in over 50 different countries. We would like to pay tribute to all the incredible work carried out by the world leading experts and organisations around the world in the field of human milk, milk banking professionals, doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals.


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