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COLUMBIA, S.C.—Palmetto Health is partnering with Prolacta Bioscience, Inc. to create the Palmetto Health Donor Milk Program. The partnership, one of the first in the nation, will provide a safe, standardized and steady supply of pasteurized donor breast milk to the health care system’s premature infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU). Under the partnership, Prolacta will manage the breast milk donor qualification process by conducting health screenings, blood testing and the milk collection process for the newly established program. Prolacta also will conduct safety and quality testing before pasteurizing the human milk products for in-hospital use. Palmetto Health will work with the community to increase awareness among moms who have surplus of breast milk to donate.
“Palmetto Health has been an advocate for human milk nutrition for preemies for some time and has seen the benefits in the babies cared for at its hospitals” said Victor Iskersky, M.D., medical director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Palmetto Health Richland. “Once we began exclusively using human milk based diet including fortifier and donor milk for preemies that didn’t have access to their mother’s milk, we noticed a dramatic decrease in necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) which is often a devastating disease in preemies resulting in profound short-term and long-term complications including death. We know how effective this is so we are pleased that this partnership with Prolacta will ensure that we have breast milk to meet the needs of the critically ill premature infants in our NICUs.”
Donor moms will be able to donate without ever having to leave the comfort of their own homes, and the family doesn’t incur any out-of-pocket expenses. The initial screening is done online, certified phlebotomists come to the mother’s home, and all of the storage and shipping supplies are sent directly to the mom. Shipment pick-up is then arranged so that the donating mother and her baby won’t be burdened by having to drive the shipment coolers anywhere. For many moms, this will come as a welcome option, since many struggle with what to do with their extra breast milk, and they will now be able to support premature infants in their community, through a process made easy and convenient by Prolacta.
There is growing evidence and data supporting the health benefits of an exclusive breast milk diet for premature infants in the NICU, as opposed to cow milk-based nutrition or formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics reinforced this with their 2012 policy statement on breastfeeding and the use of human milk, pointing to a reduction in the odds of developing the often-fatal disease necrotizing enterocolitis in extremely preterm infants (those born weighing 500-1250g), when fed an exclusively human milk diet, when compared to those fed a diet consisting of cow milk-based proteins. A recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics reinforced this, concluding that extremely premature infants who are fed an exclusive human milk diet instead of preterm formula have a significantly lower incidence of surgery associated with NEC and require fewer days of intravenous feedings through total parenteral nutrition (TPN).
“We are pleased to partner with Palmetto Health. By working together, we can ensure their community has a steady supply of standardized, safe and specially formulated donor breast milk to help optimize growth in their hospitalized preterm infants,” said Scott Elster, CEO of Prolacta Bioscience, Inc. “We have begun working with communities across the nation in which we can help address the supply issue that hospitals are facing, and we are delighted that Palmetto Health is joining us in this endeavor to help improve the outcomes of extremely premature infants.”
Prolacta is the only organization in the nation to include a rigorous donor qualification and milk collection process, a safety combination of DNA matching of mom to milk, testing for drugs and other contamination. Pooled donor milk is tested for HIV-1, HCV, and HBV using PCR tests to ensure the highest-quality available human milk products to feed the sickest infants in NICU. In addition, pooled milk, as well as finished product is tested for contamination, including specific tests for Salmonella and coliform bacteria including E. coli. Palmetto Health will become one of the first in the country to establish a hospital donor milk program. Since human breast milk is highly variable, the standardization is significant because Palmetto Health will now be able to provide donor milk with a precise amount of calories and protein, enabling targeted nutrition to help ensure appropriate growth in preemies. This ability to standardize donor milk takes the guesswork out of the equation for neonatologists who need to prescribe specific nutrition for fragile preemies.
For more information about donating breast milk, call 855-348-5274 or visit PalmettoHealth.Prolacta.com.
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