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Friday, November 17, 2017

New Technology Supports Life-Saving Comprehensive Donor Milk Program at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital

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VALHALLA, N.Y. (November 8, 2017) – Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital’s capabilities to care for the region’s tiniest and most at-risk infants were further strengthened by the recent addition of a unique piece of technology that allows the analysis of human milk in order to provide premature infants with milk specifically tailored to their unique nutritional needs – another milestone in the development of a one-of-a-kind premature donor milk bank and further improvement of the hospital’s existing comprehensive donor milk program.

The Isaac and Naomi Kaplan Family Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (RNICU) at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) and the children’s hospital for the Hudson Valley and Fairfield County, is the first in New York State to implement the use of a milk analyzer. The state-of-the-art device analyzes the makeup of mother’s milk and donor milk and enriches them to the exact nutritional needs of each premature infant.

Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital is at the forefront of efforts to ensure that premature infants receive the life-saving benefits of human milk, even if their own mother’s milk is unavailable or insufficient.

“Exclusive human milk diet with mother’s own or donor milk or a combination of the two is the medical recommendation for all infants, but especially for premature infants, who have higher nutritional needs and are more susceptible to complications from exposure to formula,” said Boriana Parvez, MD, a neonatologist at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and the director of the donor milk program. “Our RNICU is committed to delivering the very best care to our region’s tiniest babies and providing the lifesaving benefits of human milk is an essential part of this commitment.”

Human milk is not only the best nutrition but has also been proven to boost the still-developing immune system of premature infants and protect them from necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a devastating and potentially deadly intestinal disease.

The program has provided donor milk for more than 200 babies since its inception in 2015, and as a result, rates of NEC have plummeted by 70% in the RNICU. The provision of donor milk was also associated with a significant increase in the breastfeeding rates at the hospital, an anticipated and welcomed benefit.

Generous Support

Thanks to generous support from international and national foundations, local organizations, and private donors, in February 2015 Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital began providing human donor milk to all premature infants weighing less than 3 lbs., if the mother’s milk was unavailable or insufficient. Further, to boost the growth of these infants, the donor milk and the mother’s milk are enriched with a fortifier derived from human milk. This initiative eliminates exposure to formula during the most critical period in the lives of these fragile infants.* Supporters of Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital’s donor milk program include the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Heckscher Foundation for Children, the Countess Moira Charitable Foundation, Site One Landscape Supply and Mr. and Mrs. Sean Dugan.

Program Achievements

Recently, Parvez and other neonatologists at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital were a driving force behind a New York State legislative measure that requires Medicaid to reimburse families and hospitals for the cost of human donor milk for all babies born 34 weeks gestation or earlier and weighing less than 3 lbs. Parvez, along with Edmund LaGamma, MD, Chief of Newborn Medicine at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital; Heather Brumberg, MD; and Shetal Shah, MD, were recently recognized at the Statehouse in Albany for their efforts in this matter.

Later this year, the donor milk program will reach another important milestone with the addition of a milk pasteurizer, followed by the creation of a physical space that will house the one-of-a-kind “Liquid Gold Preemie Milk Bank.” Pre-term milk will be donated by carefully screened and medically cleared mothers of premature babies from the RNICU with abundant milk supply. Pre-term milk is richer in nutrients and protective factors when compared to term milk. Existing milk banks provide almost exclusively full term donor milk, donated by mothers of full term babies.

Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital’s RNICU provides care to over 700 neonatal patients each year, approximately 150 of whom are born at less than 3 lbs. Once the pre-term milk bank begins production, it is expected that the observed benefits of reduction of NEC will continue and that by receiving the most optimal nutrition the premature babies will thrive better, recuperate faster and have better neurodevelopmental outcomes.

*Donor milk and human milk fortifiers are obtained from milk banks licensed by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), credentialed by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) and paid for by grants obtained by Dr. Parvez and the Westchester Medical Center Foundation.

To learn more about the donor milk program at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and to read Rocco’s story, please visit www.advancingcarehv.com.

Photo 1 -Boriana Parvez, MD, a neonatologist and director of the donor milk program at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital demonstrates the program’s state-of-the-art milk analyzer.

Photo 2- Boriana Parvez, MD, Heather Brumberg, MD, Shetal Shah, MD, and Edmund LaGamma, MD, were recognized for their efforts during a visit to the Statehouse in Albany. Pictured with NYS Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins (center) and NYS Assemblyman Steven Englebright and NYS Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages (back row).

Photo 3 - Rocco, a graduate of the RNICU at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and now a playful 1-year-old, benefited from the hospital’s donor milk program in 2016. Pictured here with his mother, Alana Bellizzi, Rocco was born 10 weeks early weighing 2 lbs., 7 oz.