Presence of human milk bank is associated with elevated rate of exclusive breastfeeding in VLBW infants

J Perinat Med. 2013 Mar;41(2):129-31. doi: 10.1515/jpm-2012-0196.


Human milk confers health benefits of vital importance for the sick and preterm infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). Mother's own milk is the first choice in preterm infant feeding, and every effort should be made to promote lactation. When mother's milk is not available or is insufficient, donor human milk (DHM) is recommended. Yet, occasionally, the concern that the use of DHM might decrease breastfeeding is being raised. The present data collection planned by the Italian Association of Human Milk Banks (AIBLUD) in collaboration with the Italian Neonatal Network (INN) attempted to address this concern. A total of 4277 very low birth weight (VLBW) infants from 83 Italian NICUs were evaluated for this comparative analysis. The 83 Italian NICUs were divided into two groups: centers with a human milk bank (HMB) and centers without a HMB; the available parameters in the network--"any and exclusive breastfeeding rates" and "exclusive formula rate" at discharge--were compared. Exclusive breastfeeding rate at discharge was significantly higher in NICUs with a HMB than in NICUs without (29.6% vs. 16.0%, respectively). Any breastfeeding rate at discharge tended to be higher in the NICUs with HMB (60.4% vs. 52.8%, P = 0.09), and exclusive formula rate was lower in the NICUs with HMB (26.5% vs. 31.3%), but this difference was not significant. This report shows that the presence of a HMB and the use of DHM in NICU are associated with increased breastfeeding rate at discharge from the hospital for VLBW infants.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Milk Banks*
  • Milk, Human
  • Patient Discharge