The benefits of breast milk are widely known. But when Mom's own milk isn't available, the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics agree that Donor Human Milk is the next best thing. Now, all newborns who show a medical need for supplementation and whose mothers are planning to exclusively breastfeed are eligible for donor human milk at the University of Vermont Medical Center. Previously, only babies in the neonatal intensive care unit received the "liquid gold."
Hospital staff members were inspired to propose the change after noticing an uptick in patient requests and inquiries from pediatricians. Many patients, especially those wanting to exclusively breastfeed, are excited for the donor-milk option, said pediatrician and newborn nursery medical director Karin Gray. Already, demand is exceeding expectations. "We were thinking we'd use a bottle a day," said Sandra Sperry, assistant nurse manager at UVM Medical Center's Mother-Baby Unit, "but we've used 28 bottles in the first 10 days of January."
The UVM Medical Center gets milk from nonprofit OhioHealth Mother's Milk Bank, one of 18 banks in the United States and Canada approved by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, which follows strict federal pasteurization and screening guidelines.
One anticipated challenge was cost: The Medical Center pays more than $5 per ounce for donor milk, while formula runs an average of $0.19 per ounce. Mother-Baby Unit nurse manager Jennifer Robare used the NICU donor-milk budget to generate a proposal, which was swiftly approved by a supportive administration. "When I showed the benefits, the requests, the increase in patient satisfaction, all the stars aligned," Robare said, "and we were able to roll it out."