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After mom, donor milk best for low-birth-weight babies

After mom, donor milk best for low-birth-weight babies

It is easily digested and offer immunological and anti-inflammatory benefits to guard against serious infections.

By Dr. Sharon Unger University of Toronto

When it comes to feeding their newborns, nearly every new mom has heard the expression, “breast is best”. But what happens if her baby is sick, or she can’t provide her own milk, or enough of it?

This is the case for many of the approximately 1,500 low-birth-weight babies in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) across Ontario each year. Their mothers’ own milk offers these infants the greatest protection from medical complications, but when it’s unavailable, donor milk is the next best thing.

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Screened, tested and pasteurized to ensure it’s safe for medical use, donor milk is easily digested by the babies who need it. It can reduce their need for intravenous nutrition and offer immunological and anti-inflammatory benefits to help protect the babies from serious infections.

Preterm babies receiving care in NICUs are at risk of medical complications, including a condition called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a devastating bowel condition that can lead to other serious illnesses or even death. Pasteurized donor milk helps reduce the likelihood of these problems.

In addition to providing life-saving nourishment while an infant is in the hospital, donor milk also has the potential to provide benefits after baby goes home.

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