San Diego — Every year, about 260 of the tiniest premature babies in California hospitals develop an often-fatal bowel disease known as necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC.
Nobody knows what causes NEC, but a common factor in many cases is the use of formula to feed these very low-birth-weight babies because the mother’s breast milk is not available. Replacing that formula with pasteurized breast milk in every California hospital newborn intensive care unit could be a positive step in reducing NEC cases. Currently, only 50 percent to 80 percent of NICU preemies in California hospitals have access to this milk. That could soon change.
Today, University of California Health and UC San Diego Health announced the official launch of a nonprofit pasteurized breast milk bank that will serve NICU patients at hospitals throughout Southern California as well as at six UC Health academic health centers statewide. It is being operated by UC San Diego Health at the San Diego Blood Bank.
The University of California Health Milk Bank is the first milk bank in San Diego, the second nonprofit bank in California and one of only 30 nonprofit milk banks in North America. Unlike for-profit milk banks that pay breastfeeding women for their milk, nonprofit banks collect only donated milk. These nonprofit banks’ primary goal is to provide milk products to all NICU patients in need, particularly in underserved communities.
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