August 2021 – Preemie Professional Highlight

Carolyn TenEyck, RN
Senior Director, Advocacy and Government Affairs, Prolacta Bioscience
“There’s no substitute for human milk!”

PREEMIEWORLD: How long have you been working in your field?

CAROLYN: I have been advocating for preemies for the past 13 years. In my current role, I work with Prolacta Bioscience, a research-driven company dedicated to advancing the science of human milk, which is both fascinating and rewarding. As a pioneer in human milk–based nutritional products, Prolacta produces specialty nutritional formulations made exclusively from human milk for critically ill and fragile infants. In my role in Advocacy and Government Affairs, I work directly with parent, professional, and policy organizations, as well as with legislators to ensure and expand exclusive human milk diet (EHMD) education and access.

PREEMIEWORLD: Why did you choose your current profession?

CAROLYN: With a combined background in public relations and Intensive Care Nursing, supporting the most fragile patients is more than a job to me—it is a privilege, a mission, and a ministry. These “voiceless” patients need to have their many issues and needs heard in boardrooms, the halls of Congress, with federal agencies, and with those who impact healthcare policy throughout the world. Prematurity is often not seen as a “disease” or therapeutic area like cancer or diabetes, yet the consequences can be just as grave and chronic.

PREEMIEWORLD: What do you want other professionals to know about what you do?

CAROLYN: All of us who serve critically ill and fragile infants must join hands to galvanize collective action to increase awareness and access to optimal medical care, services, and interventions for both babies and their families. For premature babies born weighing 1,250 grams or less, human milk is not just nutrition, it’s quite literally “medicine.” To avoid multiple co-morbidities and to have the best opportunity for growth and development, these babies in particular need mom’s milk first and foremost. If, and when that is not possible, pasteurized human donor milk is the best alternative. Then we add 100% human milk-based fortifiers to mom’s milk and/or human donor milk to make an EHMD.

PREEMIEWORLD: What advice do you give to preemie parents?

CAROLYN: Be empowered to know your options as it pertains to nutrition, most especially if your baby is born weighing 1,250 grams or less. No one hands you a menu in the NICU and it is often alarming to parents once they find what their baby is actually being fed. Ask questions! Some hospitals, for instance, don’t have pasteurized donor milk when mom’s milk is not available. And still many NICU’s carry a fortifier made from cow’s milk, which for these fragile preemies can be extremely detrimental. I would refer you to PreemieWorld’s one-page fact sheet entitled “Helping My Very Tiny Baby Thrive, Through Optimal Nutrition.” Additionally there are several new donor milk products being promoted to NICUs today that don’t use pasteurization. Instead they utilize sterilization to process donor milk, calling the final product “shelf-stable.” There are two very important safety concerns with these new products:

  • First, the lack of data or evidence through sound clinical trials makes them a virtual “experiment” in a patient population that can ill afford it.
  • Second, unlike pasteurization that kills pathogens while maintaining the immune properties of human milk, sterilization wipes out pathogens and the bioavailability of human milk proteins. This is counter-intuitive.

I know, there’s a lot coming at you in the NICU and no one is ever prepared. Nutrition should not be complicated or compromised. Talk with your team and know your options. Check out our website at www.prolacta.com for more information, clinical data and other parents’ stories and experiences with EHMD.

PREEMIEWORLD: Fun Facts: Tell us a fun or quirky fact about you.

CAROLYN: Okay, I’m a nurse and during school I learned the organ systems by pretending I was walking through them—weird, but it worked.

PREEMIEWORLD: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

CAROLYN: Our company, Prolacta, is dedicated to you and your children. We believe in breastfeeding and the utmost importance of human milk. All of us are in this mission together, passionately. Know that there are many rooting, caring, and working for you and your baby and committed to the highest quality of science, safety, and service. We never stop thinking about your precious child and work to ensure we do everything we can for you.

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