Donor Breast Milk Program Launched at University Health System

November 13, 2013

Program is first in San Antonio, and will ensure a safe, standardized and steady supply of pasteurized human milk for premature babies at University Hospital’s NICU.

A growing body of research shows that human milk is the best source of nutrition for premature babies. Unfortunately, not all mothers of those preemies can provide milk, or enough milk to adequately meet the needs of their baby.

As a result, University Health System is launching a breast milk donor and supply program in partnership with Prolacta Bioscience to ensure a safe, standardized and steady supply of pasteurized donor milk for babies in its neonatal intensive care unit. University Health system is the first healthcare organization in San Antonio to offer this service.

Mothers in the San Antonio area interested in donating excess breast milk for premature babies at University Hospital are encouraged to apply. After a health screening, they will receive free supplies and the donated milk will be picked up from their homes. That milk will be formulated into human milk nutritional products and pasteurized by Prolacta, including rigorous safety and quality testing procedures. The human milk products, including fortifier and donor milk, will ultimately go to University Hospital and other hospitals across the country for use in their neonatal intensive care units. For every qualified ounce of milk donated, $1 will go to programs and services at University Health System.

“The donor breast milk is derived from human milk, not from cows, and that decreases the chances of developing a devastating disease called necrotizing enterocolitis,” said Dr. Cynthia Blanco, a neonatologist at University Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics at UT Medicine. “Necrotizing enterocolitis can damage the baby’s gut. And sometimes we lose some of these babies.”

Blanco was co-author of a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics earlier this year that found extremely premature babies ate better and were less likely to suffer from necrotizing enterocolitis when fed human donor milk, along with a human milk-based fortifier, compared to babies fed a cow-milk based preterm formula. Prolacta processed the donor milk and fortifier used in the study.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that premature babies should receive only human milk. And in 2011, the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding stated: “Growing evidence supports the role of donated human milk in assisting infants with special needs, such as infants in newborn intensive care units who are unable to receive their own mothers’ milk.”

University Health System is committed to the highest quality and safety standards for our patients — and that is particularly true for our youngest patients, given the recent attention to the risk of tainted donor milk. Prolacta has a rigorous donor qualification and milk-collection process in place, combining DNA matching of mom to milk, and testing for drugs and other sources of contamination for safety. Pooled donor milk is tested for HIV-1, and hepatitis B and C viruses, using PCR tests to ensure the highest-quality human milk products to feed the sickest infants in hospital NICUs. In addition, pooled milk, as well as finished product, is tested for contamination, including specific tests for salmonella and coliform bacteria such as E. coli. Through this partnership with Prolacta, we are safely able to offer a complete line of human milk formulations to meet the needs of critically ill, premature infants in our NICU.

"We are pleased to be working in partnership with University Health System," said Scott Elster, CEO of Prolacta Bioscience. "Together we will work to ensure that preemies in their NICU have a safe, standardized and steady supply of human milk-based formulation products."

For more information about donating breast milk, call 855-348-5275 or go online at Questions about the new program can also by answered by University Health System’s lactation consultant Sandra Ramirez, RN at 210-358-4450.