The Value of Human Donor Milk for Premature Infants
As the number of premature infants diagnosed with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) increases as a result of cow’s milk formula feedings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a report intended to educate both parents and medical professionals about the importance of human donor milk as a secondary recommendation for premature infants. Human milk from the mother is and has always been the first recommendation for premature babies. However, when that is not available the CDC report highlights the importance of human donor milk banks which is often overlooked by medical professionals and new parents.
The CDC also reported a study that displays the availability of human donor milk at hospitals in 2022. The major takeaways of the data, among the 616 hospitals surveyed, is the following:
1.) Of the hospitals surveyed 80% of them had available human donor milk for patients;
2.) The human milk banks are more readily available in midwest and southwest regions, in areas with higher birth rates, or those hospitals with non-profit and teaching status.
Despite the study bringing attention to a second recommended feeding option for parents with premature infants, the CDC has yet to address the rise of premature infants diagnosed with NEC due to formula or cow’s milk feedings. At Marin and Barrett law firm, we are concerned with how the CDC will hold popular formula companies like Similac and Enfamil accountable for not providing parents and health care professionals with the information they need to make informed feeding decisions with their premature infants. It is important that these companies be required to include warning labels about the dangers of using their product as a primary source of nutrition for premature infants.
To date, formula manufacturers have chosen to put profits in the lucrative $15 billion premature infant formula market ahead of the lives of premature infants. They have taken advantage of uninformed new parents, a mother’s inability to produce her own milk after what is often a traumatizing birth experience, the lack of human donor milk banks, and a gap in operational training amongst medical staff.