Thursday, November 20, 2008

Human milk fortifiers: confusion is the game

photo by Jessie McClain
Human milk fortifiers are used in NICUs to "fortify" human milk given to premature infants. There is a belief that human milk does not have enough protein, calcium, etc for the premature infant. The evidence is based on research funded mostly by the infant formula industry. This premise is the reason that NICU's fortify a mother's pumped breastmilk. Up until recently all human milk fortifiers were made by the infant formula industry. Thus the fortification has foreign proteins (cow's milk proteins). Prolacta Bioscience now is producing and selling a human milk fortifier that is based on human milk (donor milk). Prolacta Bioscience is the first for-profit donor milk bank. They funded a clinical trial of "Prolact-Plus Human Milk Fortifier" from August 2006 until August 2007. The location of those trials was Shands Children's Hospital-Florida, Miami Children's Hospital-Florida, Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital-Florida, and Memorial Hospital of South Bend-Indiana. The study director was Martin L. Lee of Prolacta. The study results have been published in Breastfeeding Medicine by researcher Dr. Gary Chan. The study evaluated "the short-term effect of Prolacta-Plus fortified human milk when compared with bovine-based fortification of human milk."
There is already confusion among IBCLCs because there has been an assumption that all human milk fortifiers are bovine in origin (made by the infant formula industry). But now we have a human milk fortifier that is based on donor human milk, but is also called a human milk fortifier.
Do parents understand what their infants are receiving? Or are they under the same impression as many IBCLCs that this is just another "formula" product? The confusion is rather advantageous to both Prolacta and the infant formula industry. But it leaves many of us in the dark about the reality of such fortification.
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

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