Irish Journal of Medical Science (1971 -)

, Volume 188, Issue 2, pp 601–605 | Cite as

Donor human milk use in neonatal units: practice and opinions in the Republic of Ireland

  • Bronwyn Dervyla Power
  • Mary Isabel O’Dea
  • Michael Joseph O’GradyEmail author
Original Article



Over the past decade, where mother’s own milk (MOM) is unavailable, the use of donor human milk has become increasingly common in preterm and very low birth weight (VLBW) neonates. Limited literature exists regarding donor human milk practices in neonatal units.


To examine practices and opinions regarding use of donor human milk in neonatal units in the Republic of Ireland.


Cross-sectional postal survey of all neonatologists and paediatricians working in each of the 19 neonatal units in the Republic of Ireland.

Main results

Eighty-eight paediatricians and neonatologists were surveyed and 44 (50%) replied. Responses were received from 20 (95%) neonatal units, of whom 15 (75%) reported using donor milk. Sixty percent of units had a written donor milk policy however significant variation existed in birth weight and gestational age thresholds for its use. Thirty-eight (86%) of respondents were opposed to the use of donor milk for supplementation of otherwise healthy term neonates. Ten (23%) of respondents believed that supplementation with donor milk compared to formula improves long-term breastfeeding rates. Twenty-two (56%) agreed that the majority of studies supporting the use of donor milk to prevent necrotising enterocolitis in preterm infants were undertaken in the past 15 years.


This is the first study to evaluate current practices and opinions regarding donor milk use in the Republic of Ireland and highlights the necessity to develop a national guideline of evidence-based best practice.


Donor breast milk Preterm Very low birth weight 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PaediatricsRegional Hospital MullingarCo. WestmeathIreland
  2. 2.Women’s and Children’s Health, School of MedicineUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland

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