Lactarium: how to give breast milk and what is it used for?

Lactarium : comment donner son lait maternel et à quoi sert-il ?

Lactariums are breast milk banks for premature babies. Zoom on the functioning of these establishments with Pr Picaud, head of neonatology and neonatal resuscitation services at the Croix Rousse hospital in Lyon.

Each year, several thousand premature babies receive from breastmilk from one of 30 French lactariums. Distributed throughout the country, they collect, prepare, treat, store, deliver and distribute human milk. These breast milk banks also have the role of advising young mothers, helping them to give milk to their child and supporting them during breastfeeding.

Who is breast milk from lactariums intended for?

Breast milk stored in lactariums is mainly intended for premature babies less than 1.5 kg. All other premature infants who cannot have milk from their mothers can also benefit from it, depending on the stocks available within the lactarium“, explains Professor Jean-Charles Picaud, head of neonatology and neonatal resuscitation services at the Croix Rousse hospital in Lyon and president of the lactariums in France and Europe.

What are the benefits for the premature baby?

We are constantly short of breast milk because there is no support campaign or specific means put in place by the health authorities. It is essential, however, that mothers know that breast milk has both nutritional and immunological benefits in premature babies, and that it is a major element in their care“Pr Picaud says. Breast milk reduces the risk of developing enterocolitis and eye complications in premature babies.”The more milk given to a premature baby, the fewer infections he or she will have. It even appears that these children have better cognitive development compared to premature babies who have not received breast milk.

Who are the donors?

It exists two types of breast milk donation. Both are based on an anonymous and voluntary approach. The personalized gift concerns young breastfeeding mothers giving their milk for their own premature child. There is also the anonymous donation which consists of donating milk so that it can be redistributed to other children. In the majority of cases, “breast milk donations are made by women who gave birth prematurely and who have a lot of milk. They have a stock of bottles available for their baby which is not always fully used. They then choose to donate these unused bottles“, says Professor Picaud. Less often, the donors are women who give birth at term and who have too much milk. They then decide to donate it in an altruistic approach, but this does not concern the majority of donors.

How to give milk?

After contacting the lactarium teams, the donor must first answer a series of questions about her lifestyle (tobacco, transfusion, drugs, etc.), which could be a contraindication to donation. A serology is also performed. Once these steps have been validated by the lactarium doctor, the young mother can collect her milk directly from the establishment or from her if she lives far away. All the necessary equipment (breast pump, baby bottles, etc.) is then provided.

What checks are carried out in the lactarium?

Once the milk has been collected, two bacteriological checks are carried out.

  • The first bacteriological control allows check for the presence of germs in breast milk. If there is little or not at all, the milk is then pasteurized. On the other hand, if the quantity of germs exceeds a certain threshold, the milk is immediately eliminated.
  • The second check takes place before the milk is dispensed. It also consists in the search for germs. If the control is positive, the milk is destroyed.

“You should know that there is little risk of contamination of the milk in the lactariums, the germs generally come from the environment, at the time when the milk is drawn. It is enough to remind the rules of hygiene to the mom for that the rate of contamination decreases during the second donation “, explains Professor Picaud.

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