Health benefits of human milk for newborns and especially premature newborns have been extensively proven. However, due to environmental pollution, contaminants can be found in human breast milk as well as donated milk.
In collaboration with Vicent Yusa's group from FISABIO (Valencia), we are studying the exposure of newborns to persistent and emerging environmental pollutants in two studys. More information can be found here.
The first study (BetterMilk) is dealing with the evalutaion of the exposure of healthy newborns to persistent and emerging contaminants. Concentrations of pollutants are measured in mother's milk, hair and urine as well as ambient air samples collected at the families home. At the same time, questionnaires on the main sources of exposure (food consumption, use of cosmetics and pesticides, etc.) are completed by the participants. This study will allow to monitor levels of different contamints in human milk and their variability and evolution. Together with the questionnaires, this project will aid to establish dietary recommendations for pregnant women in order to limit the exposure of breastfed babies to enviornmental polutants during lactation.
The second study (PreMilk), is focused on preterm babies fed exclusively with mother's milk or mother's milk and donated human milk. Here, milk samples, as well as urine samples from the preterm are collected. Again, environmental pollutants are detected in human milk and at the same time, levels of oxidative stress markers are measured in urine samples. Mothers, as well as donators will complete questionnaires on their dietary habits as well as the use of cosmetics. This allows to establish the exposure of preterm infants to environmental pollutants through lactation and helps to further study the effect of pollution on preterm infants. Again, our goal is to establish recommendations for pregnant women to help limiting the presence of environmental pollutants in breast milk.
When it is unavailable or in short supply, pasteurized donor breast milk offers an alternative and is considered the next best choice from a clinical viewpoint. Hence, in our hospital a milk bank collecting milk from donors is available.
There are few, evidence-based recommendations about processing methods for human milk banks. Recently, replacing Holder pasteurization with HTST (High Temperature Short Time) pasteurization has been suggested, latter being extensively used in the dairy industry. Regarding human milk, HTST pasteurization has only been tested using laboratory equipment, and hence results cannot be directly applied in clinical practice. Our aim, in collaboration with Dra Carmen Rosa Pallás Alonso’s group from the Hospital 12 de Octubre (Madrid), is to compare the HTST with the traditional Holder pasteurization in terms of quality and safety of human milk. Apart from nutritional and microbiological evaluations, special emphasis will be put on anti-oxidants as well as products of protein and lipid oxidation.