Our Services

Banked Human Milk Program

The NICU at Saint Barnabas offers a Banked Human Milk (BHM) program to make sure that very low birth weight babies, generally weighing less than 3.3 pounds, and other “high-risk” babies are given a chance to receive breast milk when their mother cannot provide it for them. Saint Barnabas is one of the first hospitals in New Jersey to offer the service which is provided at no extra cost to patients.

“It usually takes several days for a new mother to produce milk that would meet the baby’s needs and for some moms even longer,” explains Kamtorn Vangvanichyakorn, M.D., F.A.A.P., NICU Clinical Director. She adds that some mothers can’t meet the needs of their twins or triplets right away.

According to Dr. Kamtorn, human milk is considered to be the very best food for babies, especially premature babies, for a number of reasons. When the neonatologists approach a family about the program, they discuss the importance of human breast milk.

“The antibodies in breast milk help protect a baby from infection and the growth hormones help a baby grow and improve visual development, enhance intelligence and protect against allergies,” Dr. Kamtorn said.

While some new moms have concerns about the donor milk at first, they are receptive once the benefits of human breast milk, such as easier digestion for the baby, are explained.

The human milk used by the Saint Barnabas NICU is purchased from the Mothers' Milk Bank of Ohio. Donors are mothers who are nursing their babies and producing more milk than they can use. The milk bank mixes the milk of several mothers together, pasteurizes it, freezes it and stores it until it is shipped to the hospital.

“All breast milk donors are in good general health and must pass a screening complete with blood tests to rule out any diseases,” explains Dr. Kamtorn.

At Saint Barnabas, once new moms are producing enough breast milk for their babies, banked human milk is no longer prescribed.

(Interested donors should contact the Human Milk Banking Association of North America; hmbana.org or 919-787-5181.)

Questions and Answers About Banked Human Milk

Interview with Kamtorn “Dr. Kamtorn” Vangvanichyakorn, MD, FAAP
NICU Clinical Director and Director of Infant Apnea Program

Q: What is the Banked Human Milk (BHM) program you recently helped start in the NICU?
A: The BHM program began November 2009 in the NICU to make sure that all Very Low Birthweight (VLBW) babies (generally less than 3.3 pounds) are given a chance to receive breast milk when their mother is unable to provide breast milk or is unable to produce enough breast milk. Our NICU is one of the first in New Jersey to begin such a program and are pleased to provide it at no extra cost to the patient.

Q: Why do you feel it is so important for the VLBW babies to receive breast milk?
A: Human milk is considered to be the very best food for babies, especially premature babies, for a number of reasons. It contains special antibodies that help protect a baby from infection. It also contains growth hormones to help the baby grow and improve visual development, enhance intelligence and protect against allergies. Human milk may also reduce the risk of Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) - a very serious gastrointestinal disease that can result in severe disability.

Q: What exactly is BHM?
A: Banked human milk comes from donors who are special moms like you. They are usually new mothers who are nursing their babies and producing more milk than they can use. They volunteer to donate their extra milk to a milk bank that mixes the milk of several mothers together, pasteurizes it, freezes it and stores it ready to be distributed to hospitals in need.

Q: How do parents know the donated milk is safe?
A: All breast milk donors are non-smokers in good general health who must pass a telephone health screening and medical screening complete with blood tests to rule out any diseases. No one is accepted as a donor unless she has tested negative for the AIDS virus and has no risk factors for AIDS. As an extra precaution, all donated milk is pasteurized which kills the AIDS virus. Because of the strict standards set up by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America along with the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control, there has never been a case of banked milk infecting a baby with the AIDS virus or any other disease.

Q: Can our NICU moms provide milk for their baby if they have been started on BHM?
A: Absolutely! A mother’s own milk is meant for her baby. However, it usually takes several days for a new mother to produce milk that would meet the baby’s needs and for some moms even longer. Also, some mothers can’t meet the needs of their twins or triplets right away. Once mom is producing enough breast milk for her baby/babies, BHM is no longer prescribed.

Q: Any suggestions for parents?
A: Know that donor breast milk is proven safe. It benefits the most fragile babies If you still have any questions or concerns about banked milk, please speak to your doctor or nurse about them.

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