October 23, 2014

Columbia hospital to offer state’s first breast milk bank

Palmetto Healthcare System in Columbia is teaming up with a bioscience company to offer the state’s first breast milk bank.

The Donor Milk Program aims to provide premature babies in neonatal intensive care units at Palmetto Health’s two Columbia hospitals with real mothers’ milk instead of sterile formula.

Dr. Victor Iskersky is the director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Palmetto Health Richland. He said mother’s milk is more than just a source of nutrition for preemies.

“It is an incredibly important medication in the new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “So, it helps improve both survival and outcomes in tiny babies.”

Iskersky says breast milk decreases the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis — a disease that causes a severe intestinal problem in very premature infants.

Prolacta Bioscience Inc. will manage the breast milk donor qualification process by conducting health screenings, blood testing, and the milk collection process for the newly established program. Prolacta also will conduct safety and quality testing before pasteurizing the human milk products for in-hospital use.

Donor moms will be able to give milk without ever having to leave the comfort of their own homes. The initial screening is done online, certified phlebotomists will come to the mother’s home, and all of the storage and shipping supplies are sent directly to the mother. Shipment pick-up is then arranged so that donors will not drive the shipment coolers anywhere.

Iskersky also says anyone wanting to contribute to the breast milk bank in Columbia must submit to a screening.

To learn more about the breast milk bank log on to palmettohealth.org.

Sheree Bernardi of Charleston affiliate WTMA contributed to this report