Availability of Donor Human Milk Decreases the Incidence of Necrotizing Enterocolitis in VLBW Infants

Morris Cohen, Eileen Steffen, Randi Axelrod, Shalini N. Patel, Krystyna Toczylowski, Christine Perdon, David Brown, Sankar Kaliappan, Michael Myers, Sheila M. Gephart, Megan Quinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Human milk feeding is associated with decreased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Purpose: To determine whether a quality improvement project in New Jersey neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) to promote human milk (HM) feedings would be associated with a decrease in NEC. Methods: Fourteen New Jersey NICUs engaged in efforts to reduce infection and promote HM feeding in very low birth-weight (VLBW) infants. Donor human milk (DHM) availability and NEC rates were assessed. Results: From 2009 to 2016, NICUs with DHM increased from 0 to 7. VLBW infants discharged on any HM increased from 35% in 2007 before the formation of the New Jersey NICU Collaborative to more than 55% in 2016. Time to first oropharyngeal colostrum decreased from 37 to 30 hours from 2014 to 2016. HM at first feeding increased from 71% in 2013 to 82% in 2016. There was an increase in the percentage of feeds that were HM over the first 7 days of feeding. Analyses of data from 9400 VLBW infants born between 2009 and 2016 showed that the incidence of NEC when DHM was not available was 5.1% (367/7182) whereas the incidence when DHM was available (64/2218) was significantly lower (2.9%; P <.0001). Implications for Practice: These findings show advantages of feeding HM and effectiveness of forming an NICU collaborative for improving care for preterm infants. Implications for Research New research projects should measure the quantity of HM consumed daily during the entire NICU stay and assess the timing and amount of HM consumption in relationship to incidence of NEC and infection in neonates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAdvances in Neonatal Care
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • donor human milk
  • human milk
  • mother's own milk
  • necrotizing enterocolitis
  • preterm
  • quality improvement
  • very low birth weight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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