By Naomi Bromberg Bar-Yam, PhD
November is Prematurity Awareness Month. World Prematurity Day is November 17. In the US and across the world, approximately 10% of babies are born too early, before 37 weeks gestation. That’s 15 million babies a year across the globe.
As a general rule, babies remain in the NICU until they otherwise would have been born—sometimes longer, if there are complications. This means that preterm birth often involves weeks and sometimes months of separation between mother and baby, as mothers care for their families and return to work, and babies grow and strengthen their organs, brains, immune systems, and bodies in the NICU.
Decades of research and experience have taught us that human milk, especially moms’ own milk, is crucial to short- and long-term health and growth of preterm babies. We also know that breastfeeding and pumping frequently are essential to establishing and maintaining a milk supply, particularly in the stressful environment of a NICU stay and mother/infant separation.
Achieving “8 or more in 24” feedings for preterm, sick babies from whom moms are separated requires a high-quality, multi-user pump (usually rented) at home as well as at the hospital.
How you can help
This year, in honor of Prematurity Awareness month and day, there is a unique opportunity to support mothers and babies across Massachusetts and beyond. Please take a few minutes to compose and send a note to the Joint Financial Services Committee of the MA legislature and ask them to report out the Act Improving Access to Breast Pumps bill (S600/H967) favorably. The committee and your legislators need to hear from you about the importance of this bill for your family, loved ones, patients and clients. Information and template letter are in our post Pump Bill Written Testimony: What to Say and How to Submit.
Thank you for adding your unique voice in support of preterm babies and their families. You are making a difference.
Naomi Bromberg Bar-Yam, PhD, has been working in maternal and child health for 35 years as an educator, researcher, advocate, and writer. She is past president of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) and is the founding director emerita of Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, which provides safe donor milk to hospitals and families throughout the northeastern US. Learn more about her on her LactSpeak profile.