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Purpose of review: Recent findings substantiate that the optimal method of nourishing preterm, very low birth weight infants (VLBW, born <1500 g) is through appropriately nutrient-enriched human milk, which is frequently provided as pasteurized donor milk. The availability of donor milk for VLBW infants during initial hospitalization continues to increase with the launch of new milk banks in North America. The majority of North American neonatal ICUs now have written policies governing the provision of donor milk. The purpose of this review is to summarize recent evidence regarding the risks and benefits of pasteurization of human milk and outcomes associated with its provision to VLBW preterm infants.

Recent findings: Studies investigating the impact of collection, storage and pasteurization on the bacteriostatic, immunologic and nutritional aspects of human milk continue to be published, generally revealing a partial, but not complete reduction in bioactivity. Risk of contamination of pasteurized donor human milk with pathogenic agents is mitigated through pasteurization. New pasteurization methods aiming to maintain the safety of pooled human milk while better preserving bioactivity are under investigation.

Summary: Provision of a human milk-derived diet to preterm VLBW infants is associated with improved outcomes.

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