Orlando’s Florida Hospital opened a human-milk bank May 14, the first of its kind to the area and the second in the state (Miami is home to the first). The bank accepts surplus breast milk from nursing mothers and sends the donated milk to another bank in Denver that processes and redistributes the milk to the country’s at-risk premature babies.
For premature babies, breast milk can be life saving. Breast milk is easier to digest and contains essential nutrients infants need that cannot be replaced by formula. The antibodies and hormones in breast milk are a baby’s first defense against illness and disease — a defense which premature babies are often denied, almost half of mothers to preterm babies are unable to produce an ample supply of breast milk.
Prematurity is one of the leading causes of infant mortality in the United States. In 2012 13.3 percent of babies born in Northeast Florida were born prematurely.
Wolfson Children’s Hospital became the first health care facility in Northeast Florida to provide donated milk to premature babies in its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The hospital receives milk from two different milk banks that operate under the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. The HMBANA currently serves 39 states in the United States and three provinces in Canada.