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Donor Breast Milk Program

The Mercy Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has always emphasized the importance of mother’s milk for babies in the NICU. Research has shown breast milk has immunological components that decrease the risk of infection and is the best source of nutrition for all babies. A mother’s own milk is always preferred, but is sometimes not an option. To help new mothers provide breast milk for their babies, Mercy has specially-trained lactation consultants and nurses committed to the availability of mother’s milk. 

Because breast milk is so important for babies, the NICU has introduced a Donor Milk Program for babies who, for one reason or another, don’t receive their own mother’s milk. Donor milk is donated by healthy women who are no longer breast feeding their own infants, and who have been screened based on the recommendations by Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). The donated milk is picked up at the Mercy Collection Depot, located on the third floor of the East Tower. From there it is transported to the University of Iowa for pasteurization. After pasteurization, breast milk still contains a majority of the beneficial components that are important for the baby.  The breast milk is then packaged and frozen for use in the NICU, along with other sites around the country. 

In the NICU, the neonatal lactation consultants prepare the donor milk for the babies who will receive it. Parents sign a consent form after reviewing the information with the neonatologist, and then the babies receive donor milk for their feedings as needed.  Babies who are born premature and less than 33 weeks gestation, or who have congenital health issues, are excellent candidates for donor breast milk. Parents are assured that even if the infant can’t receive his or her own mother’s milk, the baby is still receiving the benefits of breast milk during their hospital stay. 

For more information about the Donor Milk Program, please contact Jennifer Stockman at (515) 358-4091 or JStockman@mercydesmoines.org.

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