Health Beat

Health Beat: NEC prevention: Mom's own milk is liquid gold

Health Beat: NEC prevention: Mom's...

DENVER - Paxton Kulp surprised everyone when he arrived 11-1/2 weeks before his due date. Then came another surprise. Paxton developed Necrotizing Enterocolitis, or NEC, an intestinal disease that's common in premature and low-birth weight infants. 

"In our research, we had seen just how dire it can be for little ones, and so, when it was an official diagnosis, it was very, very devastating," Kulp stated.

What causes NEC is unknown, but doctors do know breast milk is protective, so a team led by Dr. Michelle Feinberg launched an NEC prevention initiative at its neo-natal intensive care unit. The three key parts: early use of breast milk, the addition of probiotics, and a state-of-the-art prep room, where specially trained technicians process and prepare breast milk for each baby.

"They bring those prepared feedings back to the room to again store in the milk fridge for the nurses to then administer to the babies around the clock," explained Feinberg, a neonatologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Denver.

By 2013, the hospital's incidence of NEC dropped from the national average of four percent to less than half a percent, and it's stayed there.

The Kulps were lucky. Paxton's case was mild. He's fully recovered, healthy and happy.

Feinberg said commercial infant formula is to be avoided when feeding fragile, premature infants. If a mom doesn't produce enough breast milk to feed her premature baby, it is supplemented with donor breast milk from approved volunteer donors who participate in a donor breast milk program.


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