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From left, North Oaks Children’s Services Clinical Nurse Manager Tamara Mitchell and Lead Lactation Consultant Tasha Daniel receive the hospital’s first shipment of pasteurized donor human milk Aug. 14, 2019. World Breastfeeding Month is observed every August.

HAMMOND — Premature and low birth weight babies born at North Oaks Medical Center can now receive the health benefits of donor breast milk during their Neonatal Intensive Care Unit stay in cases where their own mothers’ milk is not available.

Babies born before 33 weeks or with a birth weight less than or equal to 3.3 pounds are eligible to receive a donor human milk prescription with parental consent during their time in the NICU, according to a news release.

“A mother’s milk is always preferred for her baby,” said Tasha Daniel, lead lactation consultant at North Oaks Medical Center. “But sometimes mom’s supply may not have come in yet, she may not be able to produce enough, or she may have a health issue which prevents her from being able to breastfeed. That’s when donor human milk can be used to bridge the gap in baby’s nutrition.”

“Breast milk provides babies with ideal nutrition for growth, fighting infection and promoting brain development,” said North Oaks neonatologist Dr. Jeffrey Surcouf. “It’s especially important for premature and low birth weight babies to receive breast milk because they are more likely to develop potentially life-threatening intestinal infections if they are fed formula. Breast milk can even possibly shorten hospital stays. The bottom line is that premature babies have significantly better outcomes when they are fed breast milk.”

The hospital’s donor human milk supply is provided by Mother’s Milk Bank in Austin, Texas. Mother’s Milk Bank puts donors through a rigorous screening process before they can donate. The donated milk is tested and pasteurized to kill any bacteria and viruses.

If you are interested in donating breast milk to Mother’s Milk Bank Austin, visit its website at www.milkbank.org to learn more about the process and eligibility criteria.