Donor Milk and Its Little Recipients
“There has to be a demonstrated medical need on the part of the infant for donor milk, and then we need a doctor’s prescription in order to release the milk,” says Laraine Borman, director of the Mothers Milk Bank at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver, Colorado. “We have a priority ranking for infants. Sick preterm infants are most critical, then sick full-term infants, and so on.”
For a small, critically ill number of children, donor milk is a matter of life and death. “There are kids who literally cannot eat anything else,” Borman says, “and in some cases it’s just a vast improvement in quality of life.” Premature infants, those with failure to thrive, allergies, formula intolerance or other serious medical problems are examples of those who benefit from donor human milk.
“Donor milk is very important,” says Jean Drulis, program associate and co-director of the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Iowa. “It helps infants fight the diseases of prematurity. It’s easily digestible and [the babies] have such fragile guts.” In addition to its digestibility, human milk provides immunologic and nutritional components that can boost a child’s health.
Milk Safety and Handling
Donor milk banks have strict guidelines on milk handling, processing and storing. “No banked human milk has ever been linked to a transmitted disease,” says Drulis. “It has a good track record.”