SARS-Cov-2 and Human Milk Banking
by Anne Eglash MD, IBCLC, FABM
Pasteurized donor human milk has been shown to be highly effective in reducing the risk of health complications related to prematurity, when sufficient mothers’ own milk is not available. Specifically, a 100% breastmilk diet is associated with a decreased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis and improved outcomes in newborns with GI disorders, in addition to reduced risks of bronchopulmonary dysplasia, retinopathy of prematurity, sepsis, and neurocognitive effects causing developmental delay.
With the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, premature and other newborns in the NICU are at risk for insufficient mothers’ own milk, due to hospital protocols that, for infection control purposes, may need to separate NICU infants from their mothers, making it more difficult for mothers to provide their expressed breastmilk. Some mothers may be too ill to express adequate volumes of milk, while others have difficulty establishing their milk supplies due to stress and the hormonal effects of not being close to their infants, leading to a blunting of milk expression via pumping.
The good news is that we now have evidence pasteurized banked donor human milk from a milk bank associated with the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) is safe from the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 illness. This week’s CQW article demonstrates that the SARS-Cov-2 virus does not survive at temperatures at or above 56°C (132.8°F) for more than 10 minutes. HMBANA milk banks pasteurize using temperatures of 62.5° C (145°F) for 30 minutes.
In addition, HMBANA milk banks follow US Food and Drug Association (FDA) standard protocols for food safety. The FDA states that ‘there is no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging being associated with transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.’
- There is a concern that human milk donation may decrease during the pandemic due to the perceived risks of leaving the home for blood draws and to drop off milk.
- There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through the boxes or bottles from the milk bank.
- If a milk bank tech is identified as a person under investigation or is COVID-19 positive, no milk recall is necessary.
- Cloth or surgical masks are appropriate for use by milk bank personnel to prevent the milk from contamination.
See the Answer
No abstract, see the full article here.
Human milk banking is safe, and the standard operating procedures outlined by the FDA protect the milk from being contaminated by workers. Further, standards on the handling of raw milk protect the workers from being contaminated from the surfaces of raw milk containers.
Masks worn by milk bank personnel are meant to protect the milk. The masks don’t need to protect them from any contamination in the milk. Therefore, the wearing of cloth masks among milk tech workers is an appropriate option.
Even if a milk tech worker becomes a PUI or COVID-19 +, the inherent steps in the milk banking process essentially prevent the worker from infecting the milk or milk containers, just as the processes have prevented the spread of other infectious diseases such as influenza, hepatitis A, HIV, norovirus, etc.
There is NO need to wash or cleanse bottles of milk that come from a HMBANA milk bank.
We now have firm evidence that the standard holder pasteurization technique used by HMBANA milk banks kills the SARS-Cov-2 virus that causes COVID-19.