Donor human milk for low-birth-weight infants
Every year, more than 20 million infants are born weighing less than 2500 g – over 96% of them in developing countries. These low-birth-weight infants are at increased risk of neonatal morbidity and mortality.
WHO recommends that low-birth-weight infants should be fed mother's own milk. When a mother's own breast milk is not available, the alternatives are either expressed breast milk from a donor mother or formula milk. Available evidence shows that compared with formula, donor human milk is associated with lower incidence of the severe gut disorder, necrotising enterocolitis, and other infections during the initial hospital stay after birth.
WHO recommends that low-birth-weight infants, including those with very-low-birth-weight, who cannot be fed mother's own milk should be fed donor human milk.
This recommendation is relevant for settings where safe and affordable milk-banking facilities are available or can be set up.
This is one of several WHO recommendations on feeding of low-birth-weight infants. The full set of recommendations can be found in 'Full set of recommendations' and in the guideline, under ‘WHO documents’ below.