A baby born at just 23 weeks gestation and weighing just over one pound, is thriving three months later thanks in part to volunteers who donated breast milk to a hospital-run donor bank program. Bella Marie Fakeye, whose mother Aditu Bangura became too ill to pump breast milk, received the nutrition she needed through Staten Island University’s Donor Milk Program, SILive.com reported.

“Human breast milk is a unique composition of nutrients, enzymes, growth factors, hormones, immunologic and anti-inflammatory properties not able to be duplicated,” Dr. Jonathan Blau, director of Staten Island University Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, told SILive.com. “When mother’s own milk is not available or there is insufficient volume, pasteurized donor milk from a recognized donor milk bank is the next best option.” 

Now weighing over three pounds, Bella Marie became the New York hospital’s first patient to receive donor milk through the hospital’s program.

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“I was so upset when I could no longer pump my own breast milk,” Bangura told SILive.com. “I know what it means for my little girl to have the benefits of breast milk and I’m so grateful she is thriving on milk from the donor milk bank. She’s a miracle baby.”

The donor milk, which the hospital receives through the Mother’s Milk Bank of NorthEast, is kept bottled, sealed and frozen until ready to use, SILive.com reported. Blood screening for potential donors includes tests for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis. The milk is pasteurized and screened for bacterial growth, SILive.com reported.