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St. Joe's to offer donor breast milk for babies in NICU

St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center

St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center will be offering pasteurized donor human milk for premature infants.  

St. Joseph’s will become one of 12 hospitals in New York state that will offer donor’s milk, from a Boston-based milk bank in its Level III neonatal intensive care unit.  

Pediatrics chairman Dr. Larry Consenstein says the milk would be used in cases where a mother’s milk is not available for a premature infant. He says studies show that feeding formula to a premature baby can cause severe complications, especially infections in the digestive tract.

“This is an infection and inflammation process that can start with relatively minimal symptoms and can progress to very serious infection in a matter of hours, or certainly in a day or two. And it is highly associated with the use of formula and very infrequently seen when babies are exclusively breast fed,” said Consenstein.

He says many physicians now talk about formula being a risk for these pre-term babies.

“There have been some discussions among neonatologists who run  big NICU’s that have broached the topic that, well, if you want your baby to have formula, you have to sign a consent, basically a release, saying  that you recognize there are risks associated with using formula, and you’re willing to expose your baby to these risks,” said Conesenstein. “We don’t go that far, but there’s no question that we are unequivocal with the families about what the benefits of breast milk are.”  

Consenstein says the donor milk can often be used as a supplement till a mother’s milk comes in. St. Joes’ will be getting their donor milk from Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast.

Consenstein expect families will take advantage of this option.

“My suspicion is that we’ll get relatively good acceptance of it. That seems to be the pattern. People are pretty comfortable with it.  And if they want their child to get what’s best for their child, then it ends up being a compromise that their comfortable making,” the doctor said.

Crouse Hospital in Syracuse also offers donor breast milk at its Level IV NICU unit.