bereavement support for families
As a health economist who does research on medical issues and costs associated with low birth weight babies, I was already familiar with the medical benefits associated with donor human breast milk. Last year I co-authored a scientific study demonstrating the tremendous medical care savings in reduced illness and hospitalization for very low birth weight babies fed exclusively on donor human milk (particularly in the prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis–, a potentially deadly intestinal complication of very low birth weight). We found that just in these very low birth weight babies, donor breast milk could save thousands of lives and billions of dollars.
Sometimes abstract discussions of benefits for others can become very personal. Tragically my daughter Jody died overseas last December as a complication of childbirth. I immediately contacted the Mothers’ Milk Bank to arrange for donor breast milk for my new grandson, Kasi. Kasi has been receiving regular shipments of donor breast milk since he was brought home to California at 2 weeks of age. Although Kasi had been quite undernourished in the first week of life, thanks to the donor human milk and other support he has been growing steadily and is now a happy and healthy baby boy.
We are extremely grateful that there are generous women willing to donate their breast milk so that babies like Kasi can develop into strong healthy children. In situations where babies don’t have any other access to donor human milk these generous acts of kindness will pay lifetime benefits to children like Kasi in providing crucial maternal antibodies and nutrients, preventing illness, and developing strong and healthy bodies and brains. There are many circumstances where newborns are in need of donor breast milk. And like Kasi, all of these babies deserve this extra measure of caring that allows them to maximize their lifetime opportunities.
We thank all of the breast milk donors and everyone in the milk bank organizations who help make sure that these life-saving gifts of kindness are safely and securely provided to the babies who need them.
Joel W. Hay, Ph.D.
Professor of Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy, University of Southern California
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