To examine the availability of donor human milk (DHM) in a population-based cohort and assess whether the availability of DHM was associated with rates of breast milk feeding at NICU discharge and rates of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).


Individual patient clinical data for very low birth weight infants from the California Perinatal Quality Care Collaborative were linked to hospital-level data on DHM availability from the Mothers’ Milk Bank of San José for 2007 to 2013. Trends of DHM availability were examined by level of NICU care. Hospitals that transitioned from not having DHM to having DHM availability during the study period were examined to assess changes in rates of breast milk feeding at NICU discharge and NEC.


The availability of DHM increased from 27 to 55 hospitals during the study period. The availability increased for all levels of care including regional, community, and intermediate NICUs, with the highest increase occurring in regional NICUs. By 2013, 81.3% of premature infants cared for in regional NICUs had access to DHM. Of the 22 hospitals that had a clear transition to having availability of DHM, there was a 10% increase in breast milk feeding at NICU discharge and a concomitant 2.6% decrease in NEC rates.


The availability of DHM has increased over time and has been associated with positive changes including increased breast milk feeding at NICU discharge and decrease in NEC rates.

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