Medela Honors 2013 Preemie Awareness Month with Call to Share Best Practices

Announcing the Winners of Human Milk Breast Practices in the NICU
Two NICUs Rise to the Challenge of Increasing Human Milk Consumption among NICU infants

Premature babies, born before 37 completed weeks’ gestation, are at risk for both moderate and severe health problems, as well as lifelong disabilities. Human milk acts much like medicine to premature babies who are vulnerable to potentially fatal diseases such as necrotizing enterocolitis, an intestinal disease associated with a high mortality rate among preemies. Yet many premature babies face breastfeeding challenges because their mothers are unable to establish a milk supply, or because they don’t have the muscles and coordination to nurse directly. However, there are ways to support human milk consumption despite these challenges and support infant health.

Medela issued a call for best practices on improving human milk consumption in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) and hospitals from across the country responded! The effort was developed in honor of National Prematurity Awareness Month to share best practices on how to support the health of preemie babies and increase human milk consumption.  

Medela is excited to announce the top two winners selected for their efforts in successfully increasing human milk consumption:

In addition to sharing their best practices, to help other hospital NICUs, Medela is donating $10,000 in NICU products, and Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital will receive $5,000 in products to further support their efforts to support breastmilk feeding and mom and infant health.

Memorial Hospital, Gulfport, Miss.

Mississippi has the highest rate of premature births in the United States and the lowest breastfeeding rate. Only 50.5 percent of babies are ever breastfed, compared to the national average of 77 percent. To overcome these challenges, Memorial Hospital set a goal to increase the number of women who breastfeed, particularly the mothers of infants in the NICU. In addition to implementing the “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding” established by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, the hospital:

  • Required all maternal/children’s RNs to attend a breastfeeding basics class
  • Created a standing order that in part states that if mother is separated from her infant, a breastpump and assistance will be provided at her bedside. (This hospital uses the Medela Symphony® with Preemie Plus card.)
  • Collaborated with a local milk bank to obtained milk donations (This hospital partners with Austin Milk Bank to supply breasmilk for infants less than 33 weeks old.
  • Increased awareness of human donor milk by becoming the first collection site for the Austin Milk Bank in the state of Mississippi
  • Allowed rooming in with mothers of NICU infants transferred from other hospitals

The results: Breastfeeding rates increased from one percent in December 2009 to 67 percent in January 2013 and the number of NICU infants receiving human milk increased from 38 percent to 80. The rate of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) decreased from 7 cases in 2010 to only one in 2011. Read more details here.

Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio

The level IV NICU at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital (RBCH) sought to improve breastfeeding and breastmilk expression initiation rate for NICU moms, duration of breastmilk feeding for NICU moms and exclusivity for human milk feeding for all infants weighing less than 1,500 grams. Methods for achieving these goals included:

  • Providing intraprofessional support for breastfeeding families.
  • Providing a breastpump for each patient room. (This hospital uses the Medela Symphony® with Preemie Plus initiation kit for every mother with an infant admitted to the NICU.)
  • Participating in the Ohio Perinatal Quality Collaborative (OPQC) Project (maternal education, care practices to promote milk supply, staff education, use of donor milk)
  • Participating in research to enhance knowledge of breastfeeding and improve support services.
  • Using grant to pay for pump rentals when insurance won’t cover it.

As a result of these efforts, 90 percent of infants in August 2013 were fed human milk within the first 72 hours of life, compared to 35 percent in January 2013; the average time to first maternal pumping dropped to six hours in August 2013 from 25 hours in January 2012; and the percent of infants feeding more than 50 percent mother’s milk in volume increased to 100 percent in August 2013 from 81 percent in January 2012. Read more details here.

Improve Your Practice with Evidence-based Education:
For more information on education opportunities and evidence-based strategies to improve human milk consumption and breastfeeding in the NICU, join our online and live trainings.