Australia has only two milk banks, one in Perth and one on the Gold Coast. They do important work.
The Queensland non-profit Mothers Milk Bank, based at John Flynn Private Hospital, has noted that premature and ill babies fed human milk were discharged an average of two weeks’ earlier than than those fed formula, saving families from heartache and saving the hospital system a fortune. Human milk is particularly useful for staving off infections and problems like severe necrotising enterocolitis, a high-mortality gut disease of premature babies which is six times more common in formula-fed babies.
Providing mother’s breastmilk for NICU babies, or donor human milk for NICU babies for whom mother’s milk is not available, is a basic, essential, cost-effective part of neonatal care.
Australia had two milk banks. Only two. Now, we have only one. Funding promised by the government for the volunteer-run, donor-supported Gold Coast milk bank has dried up, only vague assurances to look into it have materialised from Roxon, and director Marea Ryan says that the milk bank has just had to close their doors, leaving the most vulnerable newborns at risk.
The Brisbane Times reports.
“Milk bank dries up as govt funding evaporates”
With the help of private donations and volunteer mothers, the Mothers Milk Bank was created and provided 136 litres of milk to ill babies over 18 months.
But it was forced to close in January as volunteers – all with full time jobs of their own – could not continue after govenrment funding stopped.
Ms Ryan said she had successfully applied for $1 million from the Howard Government to establish the centre as a fully-fledged pilot project for the state, but the governmental change following last year’s federal election meant the money never materialised.
She is now hoping the Rudd government will fulfil its predecessor’s promises.
Ms Ryan said a $1 million investment in the centre would create about a $4 million saving for Queensland’s health services as premature and sick children who were fed breast milk left hospital pediatric care on average about two weeks earlier than those who were fed formula milk.
How does the Perth one survive? Does it rely on private donations?
The Perth milk bank (the Perron Rotary Express Milk Bank) only opened two years ago, with funds from a charitable trust plus Rotary and Telethon. I don’t know whether they get any government funding.
My bottom line is that this should be a basic, sustained Health Department service for all NICU babies, not an optional extra that is dependent for its survival on private charitable funding.
Hells yes, Lauredhel. When I was but a newborn Queen of Thorns, I had very little appetite, so my mother was expressing a lot of surplus milk that was whisked away by nurses and given to babies in the NICU. They couldn’t stop telling her what a good thing it was!
I’m pretty close to this issue myself: my new micropreemie (sub 26 wk) nephew is out of hospital and thriving beautifully thanks to the very hard work his mother has put in.
Oh, no argument from me, Lauredhel – I was just wondering whether the Perth one was also going to run into trouble, or whether they had accessed funding under a different name or category that the Brisbane one could take advantage of.
Is there any reason every hospital with a maternity unit doesn’t have one?