WASHINGTON – Today the National Coalition for Infant Health released a new web video, “Why Preemies Need Access to an Exclusive Human Milk Diet.” The video explains how a diet of only human milk and human milk-derived products helps preemies by boosting their immune systems, reducing respiratory complications, and preventing GI infections. It also outlines the barriers that preemies and their mothers face in accessing an exclusive human milk diet.
An exclusive human milk diet may consist of:
- Breast milk from the infant’s mother
- Brest milk from a screened donor
- Supplemental fortifier derived from human milk to provide added calories and nutrients.
An exclusive human milk diet can shield preemies from necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC, a life-threatening intestinal condition that causes a distended abdomen, respiratory failure and septic shock. It can also limit infants’ exposure to cows’ milk products, which can increase NEC risks.
However, some hospitals do not have donor milk or human milk-based fortifier. And health plans don’t necessarily provide hospital-grade breast pumps – or cover the cost of donor milk and fortifier.
As a result, frustrated parents may turn to unscreened sources of human milk through online sales points such as Craigslist, or simply forego the benefits of human milk for their newborn.
The video urges policymakers to work alongside parents and health care providers to provide the access and health plan coverage that premature infants need.
The National Coalition for Infant Health educates and advocates on behalf of premature infants from birth to age two. A collaborative of professional, clinical, community health and family support organizations, NCfIH envisions safe, healthy infants whose families can access the information, care and treatment their babies need.