Most moms have heard the saying that breast milk is best, but for premature infants it just might be a lifesaver. Breast milk is proving to be a powerful weapon against the most common intestinal disease that threatens the lives of these fragile infants. And the sooner breast milk is started the better.
Paxton Kulp surprised everyone when he arrived eleven and a half weeks before his due date. Then came another surprise. Paxton developed an intestinal disease common in premature and low birth weight infants called Necrotizing Enterocolitis or NEC for short.
“In our research we had seen just how dire it can be for little ones and so, when it was an official diagnosis, it was very, very devastating,” Kulp stated.
What causes NEC is unknown, but doctors do know breast milk is protective. So a team led by Dr. Michelle Feinberg launched a NEC prevention initiative at their neo-natal intensive care unit. The three key parts: early use of breast milk, the addition of probiotics and this state of the art prep room where specially trained techs process and prepare breast milk for each baby.
“They bring those prepared feedings back to the room to again store in the milk fridge for the nurses to then administer to the babies around the clock,” explained Michelle Feinberg, MD, Neonatologist, Saint Joseph Hospital.
By 2013, the hospital’s incidence of NEC dropped from the national average of four percent to less than half of a percent … and has stayed there. The Kulps were lucky; Paxton’s case was mild. He’s fully recovered, healthy and happy.
Dr. Feinberg says commercial infant formula is to be avoided when feeding fragile, premature infants. If a mom doesn’t produce enough breast milk to feed her premature baby, it is supplemented with donor breast milk from approved volunteer donors who participate in a donor breast milk program.
Contributors to this news report include: Field Producer, Irene Maher; Joe Mahoney, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Gabriella Battistiol, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.