When a baby is born prematurely, their life is sometimes at stake. Even just being born two weeks early can create a ton of health issues, including undeveloped lungs. With premature birth often comes breastfeeding problems, often because the baby needs to be fed through a tube, or sometimes even because the mother herself is really ill.
Yet, we know that breast milk is exactly what a baby needs, especially preemies, and Boston's Brigham & Women's Hospital knows, too. They feed the NICU babies of moms who cannot nurse breast milk -- donor breast milk.
Feeding preemies donor milk doesn't come cheap -- just the milk itself can cost $350 to $700 a week depending on how much the baby eats, and the nutrient fortifier that is sometimes needed for the smallest preemies can cost $5,000 a month. So on the surface, it would look cost-prohibitive to feed NICU babies donor milk, right?
Except when you factor in that many studies and doctors note that preemies fed breast milk often face less roadblocks and go home sooner than babies who are fed formula in the NICU. When a single day there costs around $2,000, you can see how even going home two weeks earlier (the average difference) could save extreme amounts of money -- certainly enough for the hospital to take up this practice solely for monetary reasons, even apart from the obvious health benefits.
With organizations like Eats on Feets, where mothers can quickly get their hands on hundreds of ounces of donor milk from other mothers, they can also help provide milk for their baby ... and yes, you can even flash-pasteurize milk yourself if you are concerned, and though you do lose some benefits this way, it's still ideal and preferred if contamination is a concern.
My hope is that as hospital policy, this opens the door to insurance companies covering donor milk for not only babies in that NICU, but for any baby (especially preemies) who needs donor milk. The cost difference in treatment of illnesses alone has been proven to be financially enticing and it's the healthier choice.
Now we just need more milk banks, and more hospitals to take up these policies.
What do you think about donor breast milk to feed a baby in need? Would you use donor breast milk if you had to?
Image via Jim B L/Flickr