Powdered Breast Milk: Coming Soon
A mother’s milk is a natural product that happens to be one of the most important substances for human life. Breast milk offers the best natural mix of nutrients that a baby needs for the first months of their life. Sometimes, though, breastfeeding is impossible. For these cases, powdered breast milk is now an option.
Breast milk is highly valued for the health benefits it offers, which extend well into adulthood. According to the WHO, breastfeeding reduces infant mortality and guards against illnesses such as diarrhea, pneumonia and asthma. Similarly, by breastfeeding exclusively during the first few months, we give our baby all the energy they need to grow strong and healthy.
However, many mothers cannot breastfeed their babies, or not as much as they would like. Some suffer from problems of nutrition or other illnesses that make breastfeeding difficult.
In these situations, breastfeeding is not feasible for the mother or the child. This leads to an important question: how can we ensure that these newborns get all the nutrition they need, without damaging their digestive system?
With this in mind, breastmilk banks have been created, where women with more milk than they need can make donations. However, studies have shown that the process of pasteurization can destroy some of the essential proteins and fats in the milk. These nutrients, as we know, are critical to the baby’s diet and should not be exposed to high temperatures that cause them to break down.
Powdered breast milk, incredible!
Thanks to advances in technology, a group of researchers at the University of Guadalajara in Mexico have made a breakthrough. With help from the city’s Civil Hospital, they have managed to develop a surprising new type of food for babies: powdered breast milk. This procedure is very promising for the storage and conservation of this valuable product, and looks set to help many.
The experts extracted excess water from human breast milk by exposing it to very high temperatures. In this way, they were able to dehydrate the milk and turn it into a powder, avoiding the process of pasteurization. What’s more, there is no need to store this product in the freezer, which can degrade the milk.
According to a statement, the process of transformation consists of evaporating drops of liquid at high temperatures, until all the moisture is gone. This method is called aspersion, and involves separating a liquid into very fine drops. In this case, the drops go through the process of evaporation, and once dehydrated, they turn into a powder.
The powder is stored drop by drop. This technique conserves almost all the nutrients in the milk, losing only 10% of its nutritional value. That is to say, this powdered milk is almost as good as fresh.
Powdered breast milk saves lives
One of the effects of this breakthrough is that breast milk can now be stored and transported to isolated populations. The product can be stored for up to 6 months without any drop in quality. This innovation has brought benefits to thousands of children in need, for free.
As we know, breast milk banks have an important social function. However, the problems involved in storing the milk make it difficult to safely transport.
Powdered breast milk, on the other hand, offers numerous benefits in these situations. Since the milk is safe to transport under a wider range of conditions, it can be distributed to more isolated areas.
The next challenge is to create the first powdered breast milk bank, which will benefit a huge number of children. In particular, it will help families in areas that are far from medical centers and large cities. The first powdered breast milk bank is planned for Mexico, but there will soon be others around the world.
According to the researchers involved, the powdered breast milk bank is currently in the process of applying for patents. Once this is done, others will be able to acquire the technology. This innovation will feed many children with nutrition problems, both in and out of hospitals.
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- Gupta V., Rebekah G., Sudhakar Y., Santhanam S., et al., A randomized controlled trial comparing the effect of fortification of human milk with an infant formula powder versus unfortified human milk on the growth of preterm very low birth weight infants. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med, 2018. 28: 1-171.
- Rigo J., Hascoet JM., Billeaud C., PIcaud JC., et al., Growth and nutritional biomarkers of preterm infants fed a new powdered human milk fortifier: a randomized trial. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr, 2017. 65 (4): 83-93.