Human Milk and NEC Prevention

This month we’re recognizing Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) Awareness Month. Here at Mothers’ Milk Bank, we recognize the seriousness of NEC for premature, medically fragile, and full-term infants with risk factors and understand the need for more research to better understand this complex disease. But even more than that, we stand with the families, caretakers, and providers who are navigating this difficult medical condition.

We also want to bring awareness to an important factor supporting the treatment and prevention of NEC: human milk. Whether it’s from a parent or donor, human milk significantly reduces the incidence of NEC. The unique antibodies, growth factors, and anti-inflammatory agents in human milk are just a few components that can help reduce inflammation and protect intestinal tissue. Researchers believe these factors may be why a diet of exclusively human milk protects vulnerable babies against NEC. If that’s not enough to use human milk in NEC prevention, human milk is also less likely to contain harmful bacteria than formula.

At Mothers’ Milk Bank, we know how fragile babies who receive our donor human milk can be, so we take safety very seriously. Each donor is screened, undergoes blood testing, and is reviewed by multiple staff members before being approved to donate. After we receive their milk, we gently pasteurize and test each batch before it is sent to our hospitals, ensuring it is safe for even the most fragile infants.

During NEC Awareness Month, we would like to reiterate human milk’s importance and its role in preventing this devastating disease. To learn more about NEC or to get involved in building a world without NEC through research, advocacy, and education, we encourage you to check out the NEC Society.