A mother's own milk is the best source of nutrition for newborns. Not only breastmilk provides a child's nutritional needs during the initial months of life, but also antibodies that help protect him/her against many common childhood illnesses. Leading health organisations recommend exclusive breastfeeding of infants for the first 6 months of life and continued breastfeeding for 12 months or longer. However, some mothers may noy be able to breastfeed their infant for a range of reasons. When the mother's own milk is not available or is not enough, pasteurised donor human milk is considered a safer and better option compared with formula milk. Milk donated to human milk banks are pasteurized to inactivate viral and bacterial agents, while keeping the nutritious and immunologic qualities of breast milk intact. The number of human milk banks worldwide is estimated to have gone up from less than 10 in 1979 to 700 in 2020.
When use of pasteurised donor breast milk is recomended?
Below, Dr Vikram Reddy, MBBS, MD, PGDMLE, PGDIPRL, Chief Scientific Officer, NeoLacta Lifesciences, has cited five instances when donor breast milk can be a lifesaver for infants.
When mother's own milk is unavailable for preterm or low birth weight infants, feeding with pasteurized donor milk protects against necrotizing enterocolitis compared with formula milk.
When mothers require medications that are contraindicated in breastfeeding such as amiodarone, chemotherapeutic or antineoplastic agents, chloramphenicol, ergotamine, gold salts, phenindione, radioactive pharmaceuticals, retinoids, tetracyclines (use for more than 3 weeks), and certain psychotropic medications, screened and pasteurized donor human milk would be safe choice for the infants.
Mother is absent due to separation, sickness, death, or abandonment, and in this case, if the baby is sick and requires breast milk, donor human milk can be a lifesaver and provide adequate nutrition and also protect the baby against infection.
Pasteurised donor milk provides the nutritional and immunologic benefits of breast milk and reduces infectious complications in preterm or low birthweight infants compared with formula milk. Pasteurised human breast milk has also been associated with a 19 per cent reduction in the odds of developing sepsis for every 10 mL/kg consumed each day in the first 28 days of life in very low birth weight infants compared with infant formula.
Among preterm infants who receive some of their mother's own milk, those who were supplemented with donor human milk had a 22 per cent lower incidence of bronchopulmonary dysplasia and required almost three fewer days of ventilator support than preterm infants who were supplemented with preterm formula.