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Breast Milk Works Wonders for TPN Child
Donna & David Miller
We have a foster home in Highland, California, that specializes in caring for intensely medically-fragile infants and small children who cannot be maintained in their birth parent’s home, but do not necessarily need to stay in an acute care hospital.
At the present time we have a little foster child, Dori (a pseudonym), that needs breast milk to stimulate the growth and proper functioning of her digestive system. Due to complications at birth, the doctors had to remove approximately 80 percent of her small intestine, subsequently requiring that she be maintained primarily on TPN with supplemental oral feedings via a gastrostomy tube (GT).
Dori cannot tolerate any commercial formula administered through her GT tube without diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pains. For the first year of her life, Dori was classified as a “failure-to-thrive” baby in spite of numerous adjustments to her TPN and oral formulas, attempts at trying all the various commercial and specialized baby formulas, and anything else the doctors could think of. In July, 1996, at one year of age, Dori’s liver was degenerating (due to cirrhosis), her bones were de-mineralizing and her skin tone was greenish-yellow. Finally, in August, one of her doctors suggested that we try feeding Dori fresh breast milk. (Human breast milk contains growth hormones and other components that cannot be duplicated in commercial formulas -- still can’t improve on Mother Nature.) Our daughter, who was nursing at the time, provided the initial supply of two ounces/day of breast milk. This was all that Dori could tolerate at that time, and was administered at 3 cc/hr over a 12 hour period.
This switch to breast milk has made all the difference in the world. After four weeks, the greenish-yellow tinge was gone from her eyes and skin, and no more diarrhea or stomach upsets. Her disposition has also improved significantly now that she feels much better. Her oral feedings have been increased at the rate of 1 cc/week as she can tolerate the increase. After five months on breast milk, she had gained five pounds. Now, seven months later, Dori looks the picture of health, although her long term prognosis is still guarded: she will need a liver transplant as soon as she is able to subsist on oral feedings and get off the TPN. She is now tolerating 22 cc/hr for 12 hours/day and hopefully can come off the TPN when she gets to 65-70 cc/hr.
In order to meet Dori’s needs, we have established a special project where nursing mothers in the community donate breast milk for Dori. Mothers participating in the project are loaned electrical hospital-grade breast pumps. Typically, the mothers will pump at their convenience, freeze the milk, and we pick it up once or twice a week. (Once frozen, breast milk will keep for up to six months without deterioration.) Some areas have pasteurized breast milk ‘banks,’ but the pasteurization process destroys some of the key enzymes that Dori needs to stimulate the growth and absorption capability of her intestine. All of the donating mothers have been tested for HIV and Hepatitis, since these diseases could pass through the breast milk to Dori.
This program has worked so successfully for Dori that the doctors are also considering trying it on one of our other foster babies with similar problems. If this occurs, it will be a real challenge to find enough mothers willing to donate. If anyone is interested in following this project or would like more information, you are welcome to contact us at 27561 Croydon St., Highland, CA, 92346; (909) 864-5244.
Medical Editor’s Note: It is unknown whether the experience described above has relevance to the wider Oley community; however, the use of breast milk was successful for this one child and the family who lived through the difficulty wanted to share their story. Possible explanations as to why this child did better on breast milk could be sensitivity to cow or soy milk proteins. It could also be due to the generous amount of glutamine and taurine found in human breast milk.
Copyright © 1995 The Oley Foundation