Harper Government invests in innovative nutritional research that will benefit hospitalized babies and their families

OTTAWA, March 18, 2014 /CNW/ - Today, Eve Adams, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, announced $2 million in funding for nutritional research that will benefit extremely vulnerable babies and their families.

This grant has been awarded to Dr. Sharon Unger, Neonatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital and Medical Director, The Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank and Dr. Deborah O'Connor, Senior Associate Scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto for their research project on Optimizing Mother's Milk for Preterm Infants. The research aims to evaluate the benefits, risks and costs of using pasteurized donor human milk, a human milk-based nutrient fortifier and protein modulars for feeding very low birth weight infants. The infants will be followed until school age and will be assessed on their brain development and appropriate growth. The donor milk is now supplied by the Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank located at Mount Sinai Hospital.

This study will be pivotal in setting feeding guidelines for very low birth weight infants in Canada and globally.

Quick Facts

  • Located at Mount Sinai Hospital, and in partnership with SickKids and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, The Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank collects donated breast milk from lactating women, pasteurizes it, and distributes it by prescription to medically fragile babies in neonatal intensive care units across Ontario.
  • While mother's own milk is the gold standard, many mothers of extremely vulnerable hospitalized babies are unable to provide the necessary volume of milk for their babies. When mother's own milk is not available or is limited, pasteurized donor milk is recommended for sick hospitalized infants as an alternative to formula by the Canadian Paediatric Society.
  • Pasteurized donor human milk can help protect the most medically fragile babies against life-threatening illnesses, such as necrotizing enterocolitis (a severe bowel condition that preterm babies are prone to), and potentially against serious infections and other complications related to preterm birth. The bioactive components of donor milk, including cytokines, hormones, and enzymes, optimize the health and development of babies.

Quotes

"Our Government is pleased to support Drs. Unger and O'Connor in this initiative. Their research is revolutionizing care for extremely vulnerable babies, by setting new nutritional practices, guidelines and policies that will greatly benefit their health outcomes and quality of life."

- Eve Adams
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

"As a neonatologist I see the most fragile babies every day fighting to survive.  We know that providing donor milk to these babies makes a real difference, but we need to learn more to get an even better understanding of how we can improve outcomes. The previous research funding in this area resulted in the opening of Ontario's only human milk bank, and I know that this new investment will propel even better care to our tiniest patients."

Dr. Sharon Unger
Neonatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital and Medical Director, The Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank.

"The strength of this research is that is has the potential to be a real game changer in improving neurocognitive development among our most vulnerable babies. Optimizing the nutritional content of mother's own and donor milk and integrating this research into clinical care allows clinicians, researchers and parents to give these babies the best possible start,"

Dr. Deborah O'Connor
Senior Associate Scientist at SickKids and Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto

"Studies show that nutrition is important for brain and body development in fetal and early postnatal life. I am excited about this project for its potential to greatly impact the lives of the most fragile babies by improving their long-term health and development."

Dr. Philip Sherman
Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes

Related Products

- Link to Backgrounder

Associated Links

The Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank - http://www.milkbankontario.ca/
Mount Sinai Hospital - http://www.mountsinai.on.ca/
SickKids - http://www.sickkids.ca

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's health research investment agency. CIHR's mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened health care system for Canadians. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 13,200 health researchers and trainees across Canada. www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca

            


Backgrounder

About the 'Optimizing Mother's Milk for Preterm Infants' project:

The 'Optimizing Mother's Milk for Preterm Infants' project is led by Dr. Sharon Unger and Dr. Deborah O'Connor. This research project is evaluating the benefits, risks and costs of using pasteurized donor human milk, a human milk-based nutrient fortifier and protein modulars for feeding very low birth weight infants. The infants will be followed until school age and will be assessed on their brain development and appropriate growth. This study will be pivotal in setting feeding guidelines for very low birth weight infants in Canada and globally.

About the Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank:

The Rogers Hixon Ontario Milk Bank is located at Mount Sinai Hospital and is the only milk bank in Ontario. Following a rigorous screening process, donated breast milk is collected, pasteurized and distributed to the most medically fragile babies across Ontario.  The Rogers Hixon Ontario Milk Bank is a partnership between Mount Sinai Hospital, SickKids and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and was made possible by the generous support of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Rogers Foundation.

Impact

  • The Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank began dispensing donated breast milk to hospitalized babies across Ontario on April 25, 2013.
  • To date the Milk Bank has dispensed approx. 27,000 oz. of donor milk and is on track to reach 30,000 oz. by the end of the first year of operation.
  • The donor milk is distributed to 14 hospitals throughout Ontario and the Milk Bank has been able to meet all orders.

Babies Who Receive Donor Milk

  • Tertiary care Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) babies throughout Ontario who weigh less than 1500 grams and do not have a full supply of their mother's own milk
  • Donor milk is prescribed to hospitalized babies by a doctor,_clinical dietitian or nurse practitioner and is provided at no cost to families.

Quality & Safety

  • Donor milk goes through a rigorous process of screening, testing and pasteurization, which ensures donor milk is safe for medical use.
  • The Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank meets or exceeds all applicable federal, provincial and municipal regulations including Health Canada, Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Toronto Public Health requirements and is accredited annually from HMBANA (Human Milk Banking Association of North America).
  • Using techniques that have been proven to kill any known potential bacterial and viral contaminants, donor milk is pooled from several mothers and pasteurized using similar techniques to the treatment of cow's milk in the dairy industry.
  • Tests for bacteria are conducted in the lab on each donor's milk before pooling and pasteurization. Once pasteurized, each batch of milk is then tested again.
  • Pasteurized donor milk can be frozen for up to six months.

Who Donates the Milk?

  • The Milk Bank relies on the altruistic generosity of mothers.
  • Since opening, approximately 170 approved donor mothers from across Ontario have donated their excess breast milk.

Breast Milk Donation Process

  • Donor mothers must be in their first year of breastfeeding and pass a strict screening protocol set by Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). The process is similar to blood donor screening.
  • Once a woman has completed the screening process, the Milk Bank sends a collection kit that includes bottles, pumping and shipping instructions to their home.
  • The donor milk is then collected by a courier and brought to to the Milk Bank to be processed, tested and pasteurized.

Research/Stats

  • There are approximately 1,500 very low birth weight babies born in Ontario each year and about 50 per cent do not have access to a full volume of their mother's own milk.
  • When mother's own milk is not available or is limited, pasteurized donor milk is recommended as an alternative to formula by the Canadian Paediatric Society for sick hospitalized infants.
  • Research shows that donor milk can protect preterm or very low birth weight babies against life-threatening illnesses such as necrotizing enterocolitis (a severe bowel condition that preterm babies are prone to) and potentially against serious infections and other complications related to preterm birth.
  • The bioactive components of donor milk, including cytokines, hormones, and enzymes, optimize the health and development of babies, and are unmatched by any commercial formula.
  • CIHR sponsored the initial study on the effects of human donor milk on very low birth weight infants which led to the collection of evidence for building the Milk Bank.

History of Milk Banks

  • Milk banking is a common practice worldwide and has received endorsements from the Canadian Paediatric Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization.
  • Human donor milk banks were common practice in North America before the HIV epidemic during the mid-1980s which caused the majority of them to close.
  • After it became possible to screen body fluids for HIV, standards for establishing and operating human donor milk banks were re-established.
  • With clinical and research leadership and expertise from Mount Sinai Hospital, SickKids and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, including Dr. Shoo Lee, and Dr. Sharon Unger, the Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank,  uses the gold standard of safety and infection control and is being used as an example across North America.

The Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank is supported by:

  • The Rogers Foundation
  • The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

For more information or to donate breast milk visit www.milkbankontario.ca.

SOURCE Canadian Institutes of Health Research

For further information:

Brett Carlson
Office of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Health
613-618-4019

Media Relations
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
613-946-0927

Sally Szuster
Communications & Public Affairs Mount Sinai Hospital
416-586-4800 ext. 8713

Matet Nebres
Media Relations
SickKids
416-813-6380
matet.nebres@sickkids.ca