Human milk is infant food but for critically ill babies, it can also work as a medicine, says a promising research.
“The immunological and anti-inflammatory properties of human milk are especially important for the critically ill infants in our intensive care units,” said Diane L. Spatz, director of the lactation programme at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
The hospital has used donor human milk since 2006 for at-risk infants to supplement a mother’s own milk supply if it is insufficient or if the mother is unable to provide milk for her infant.
The CHOP has also announced plans to launch a non-profit milk bank with the Human Milk Banking Association of North America within an year.
Multiple public health and professional medical associations – from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to the American Academy of Paediatrics – have endorsed the widespread advantages of human milk and breastfeeding for all infants.
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Spatz is the key figure behind a series of articles in a neonatal nursing journal’s special issue focused on human milk for sick newborns and published by the National Association of Neonatal Nurses.
Spatz argues that under the “best interest principle”, the infant’s best interest, not parental authority, should have priority in guiding infant feeding practices – particularly for critically ill babies.
The well-documented health benefits of human milk, say the authors, make it the optimal form of nutrition for those infants.