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Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center Launches the First Virtual Donor Milk Program in the Region for Premature Infants in their Neonatal Intensive

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Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center has become first in the region to launch a virtual donor milk program for premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The donor milk program makes it possible for Saint Mary’s to provide premature infants in the NICU with an “Exclusive Human Milk Diet” (EHMD) through the use of standardized donor milk and nutritional fortifiers made exclusively from human milk instead of cow milk.

“All newborns benefit from human milk, but for babies in the NICU, the benefits are even more important as human milk contains antibodies and other substances that protect babies from disease,” said Alana Beilstein, NICU Manager at Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center. “We’re proud that we can now offer a safe outlet for milk donation, which is incredibly crucial to our NICU babies and their families.”

Saint Mary’s is working with Prolacta Bioscience to establish the donor milk program. Prolacta leads the industry with its quality and safety standards for donor milk screening and has developed proprietary testing and screening protocols to ensure the safety of the preemies who rely on Prolacta’s donor milk-based nutritional products. Prolacta will manage the milk donor qualification process by conducting health screenings, blood testing, and the milk collection process. Saint Mary’s chose Prolacta for the assurance that the hospital will receive safe, standardized donor milk formulations processed in a pharmaceutical-grade facility, under the strictest quality and safety guidelines, to protect the health and well-being of their most fragile patients.

Benefits of an Exclusive Human Milk Diet in the NICU:

Growing scientific evidence supports the benefits of an EHMD for premature infants in the NICU, as opposed to cow milk-based nutrition or formula. When used as part of an EHMD, Prolacta Bioscience’s neonatal nutritional products are clinically proven to improve health outcomes and reduce hospital costs for critically ill, extremely premature infants in the NICU weighing between 500-1250g at birth, as compared to cow milk-based fortifier or cow-milk based preterm formula. Specifically, Prolact+ H2MF®, when used as part of an EHMD, is the first and only human milk fortifier clinically proven to reduce necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), surgery related to NEC, sepsis and mortality in premature infants weighing between 500-1250g at birth.NEC is one of the leading causes of mortality among preterm babies.

As one of only two Level III NICUs in Reno, Saint Mary’s is recognized and accredited by the state of Nevada as one of the area's best in caring for urgent baby needs. It is the only facility in northern Nevada that has the capability to deliver high-frequency ventilation in additional to conventional ventilation, and to deliver nitric oxide during transportation. Working with Prolacta Bioscience, Saint Mary’s will also be able to provide calorie- and protein-standardized donor milk in the NICU to preemies when mother’s milk is unavailable. Calories are critical to micro preemies whose nutritional needs are vital to their survival. Prolacta’s “standardized” donor milk is guaranteed to deliver a minimum of 20 Cal/fl oz and an average of 1.1 grams of protein per 100ml, so Saint Mary’s neonatologists can ensure the nutritional content of each feed.

Saint Mary’s donor milk program is in support for the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recommendation for the use of human milk for premature infants, whether their mother’s own milk or pasteurized donor breast milk, if a mother’s own milk is unavailable. For preemies weighing less than 1,500 grams, the AAP recommends fortifying mother’s own breast milk with protein, minerals and vitamins to ensure optimal nutrient intake.[xii]

How the Donor Process Will Work:

The donor process will be easy and convenient. Moms can donate without leaving their home, and the family does not incur any out-of-pocket expenses. The health and history screening is done online, a certified phlebotomist will come to the mother’s home or office, and all of the storage and shipping supplies are provided free of cost to the donor. Prepaid shipping is then arranged so that the donating mother and her baby aren’t burdened by having to drive the frozen milk coolers to a shipping location. For nursing moms, the opportunity to donate excess milk comes as a welcome option, as many struggle with a surplus that now can be donated to support premature infants in their community.

To learn how to become a donor, visit

About Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center

Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center based in Reno, Nev. is a 380-bed acute care hospital offering inpatient, outpatient and wellness services. Nationally recognized and accredited by the Joint Commission, Saint Mary’s offers a robust line of services including a top-rated Center for Cancer featuring the region’s only CyberKnife radiosurgery delivery system, state-of-the-art William N. Pennington Emergency Room and Senior ER and a Cardiology program dedicated to long-term wellness. The health system also operates a fully-integrated Medical Group and a state-of-the-art Center for Health & Fitness. As a long-standing community partner, Saint Mary’s is dedicated to ensuring the health and wellness of northern Nevada remains strong. For more information, visit