When Eugene Muniz was born 43 days ago, he weighed only two pounds, which dipped down to one pound. That required him to spend his first month and a half of life at the Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children in its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
In order to help him grow to his current weight of four pounds, Eugene required a fortified version of milk from his mom, Evelyn. Eugene is also among the first infants to benefit from the hospital’s new Infant Nutrition Lab.
“When I go home, I pump several times,” Evelyn Muniz said. “So everything that’s brought in, they store it and have it ready to go when he needs it.”
The lab contains large refrigerators, which allows them to store fortified milk in a highly sanitary environment for the mothers. Cheryl Case serves as the unit direct of the Level III NICU at the hospital. She said there has been a growing need for a lab like this in the region.
“(The) diet of our patients have become increasingly complex over the past couple of years and we knew that we needed a space where we could have dedicated techs in here working to allow for optimal nutrition for our patients and to provide better growth,” Case said.
The lab provides a dedicated space where the technicians can take milk from either the mother or a donor and fortify it to meet the dietary needs of each baby. It also frees up nurses to spend more time with their patients.
“Prior to the implementation of our Infant Nutrition Lab, our nurses were prepping these feedings at a couple of dedicated locations throughout the unit. But we realized that the nurses were having to wait on those areas as more of our patients were requiring a human milk diet,” Case said.
“And that is primarily what’s being prepped in this area. About 95 percent of (the infant’s) diet is human milk, whether that’s mom’s milk or donor milk.”
The lab serves about 35 to 45 patients at a time and currently only infants in the NICU. Case said the goal is to be able to serve all areas of the hospital that service newborns.
Muniz said the new lab has been a blessing.
“Having the milk lab is beneficial for all of us, because the milk is prepared, it's fortified with what the babies need and it gives everybody a bit more ease.”