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Sinai Hospital Offers Human Breast Milk Supplements For Preemies

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—A serious, often fatal disease found mostly in premature babies has a simple solution, one that a local hospital has put into place.

Mike Schuh reports from Sinai.

A locked door opened for Laquasha Singletary. Here's why. Caleb came two months early. And because so many preemies, particularly African-American preemies, get a disease that kill their intestines when a mom can't produce enough milk on her own, the hospital now has an all natural answer.

"Cow's milk is for cows. Human milk is for humans," said Dr. Thomas O'Brien, Sinai Hospital.

What's he's saying is that preemies like Caleb need human mother's milk to keep their guts alive, but some of the human milk he's getting is not from his own mother.

"He's getting a fortifying supplement from human breast milk, from a donor," Singletary explained.

All of this breast milk came from lactating mothers who donated their extra milk--kind of like a blood donation.

"When you think about one person drinking another person's milk, it seems a little ookey. It is, it is, and at first I was like 'no,'" the mother said.

"There is the ick factor," O'Brien said.

But the doctors here tell the moms that this milk is donated by people who've been screened for diseases, and it's pasteurized.

"Once I found he was gaining weight and doing well, I was all for it," Singletary said.

On average, at this hospital, one preemie per year would die because they couldn't handle anything but human milk.

But now, three months and six babies into using these donations, mother's milk-- no matter its source--is doing the job.

O'Brien says a mother's milk is the mother's milk of nutrition.

"Absolutely, no doubt," he said.

Sinai is the only hospital in our area offering both a human milk supplement and whole human milk. Sinai estimates that it costs an extra $100,000 a year because the milk is not covered by some insurance policies.

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