Specialty Care Nurseries (Neonatal Intensive Care Units) at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and Sentara Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach have begun using donated human milk to feed premature babies who need that support.

Specialty care nurseries use donated human milk

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Specialty care nurseries (neonatal intensive care units) at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and Sentara Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach have begun using donated human milk to feed premature babies who need that support.

Sentara Norfolk General is currently feeding three preemies while Sentara Princess Anne has milk available onsite when it is needed.

Sentara joins Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk, which has been using donated human milk in its NICU for a year. Both institutions currently purchase milk by the ounce from the WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank in Raleigh, N.C. However, CHKD is building its own local facility to process and store donated human milk. It will be one of barely a dozen such facilities in the U.S. when it opens next year and Sentara will eventually purchase human milk directly from CHKD.

“The benefits of donated mothers’ milk are immense,” says Nikki Lowery, RN, clinical manager of the 20-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach. “It helps these tiny infants gain weight and fight infections and I’m excited that Sentara NICUs now have this option available.”

Donated human milk can be a life-saving treatment for premature infants, who are vulnerable to infections. This milk not only nourishes infants in a natural way, but is necessary for their overall growth and development.

“We appreciate the guidance and support from CHKD in developing our human milk program,” says Ann Barnes, clinical manager of the 48-bed Specialty Care Nursery at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. “They shared their materials and experience from their first year, which helped us move quickly when we decided to join the program.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics has published guidelines for the administration of donor human milk to premature infants. This donated milk would be used in the event the birth mother is unable to fully supply her premature infant with her own milk. Sentara Healthcare special care nurseries will be offering donor human milk to premature infants who are born weighing less than 1501 grams (3.3 pounds) and/or for infants less than 30 weeks gestation at birth. This milk will be fed to the infants for a minimum of 4 weeks. Their mothers must grant consent to use the donated milk. Most preemies at that stage are fed by the tablespoon through feeding tubes. Birth mothers’ own milk can be added and mixed with the donated human milk.