A new policy
statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports using donor
human milk to help boost the health of small, preterm babies when needed, but
calls for screening, pasteurization and distribution through established donor
milk banks to ensure safety.
statement in the January 2017 Pediatrics,
“Donor Human Milk for the High-Risk Infant: Preparation, Safety, and UsageOptions in the U.S.
” (published online Dec. 19), advises against using Internet-based
or informal human milk sharing. These sources of human milk carry the risk of
bacterial or viral contamination, or exposure to medications, drugs, herbs or
milk is distributed by milk banks through hospital neonatal intensive care
units. With limited supplies, some parents are obtaining donor human milk
directly from other parents or from Internet sources that may be less safe
since they vary widely in screening of donors and methods of milk storage and
“The use of
donor human milk can save babies’ lives, but we need to make sure it is
provided safely," said Steven Abrams, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy
statement and a past member of the AAP Committee on Nutrition. “The way to
provide milk safely is through established milk banks that perform adequate
safety checks and screening. Using milk from informal or online sources is
simply too large a risk for infants, who could be exposed to bacteria and
viruses like cytomegalovirus, hepatitis viruses, and HIV.”
offers advantages for all newborns, but particularly benefits infants weighing
less than 1,500 grams (about 3.5 pounds), according to the AAP. Studies show
infants fed human milk have lower rates of necrotizing enterocolitis, for
example, a life-threatening intestinal disorder that primarily affects
milk is always preferred, in part because some of breastmilk’s beneficial
biological components may be reduced after pasteurization. But donor human milk
can be an effective alternative when maternal milk isn’t available or falls
short of the infant’s needs, according to the AAP. Reliably safe supplies of
donor human milk from established milk banks are still limited, however.
statement also calls for developing public policy to increase and expand access
to safe donor milk including improved governmental and private financial
support for donor milk banks.
# # #
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 66,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.