WA Milk Bank: 470 premature babies served

I love a story that brings a smile to the face! The West reports that my local breastmilk bank, the Perron Rotary Express Milk Bank, has seen 830 litres of milk go through its doors since it started in August 2006.

Prem Bank director Ben Hartmann said the service had exceeded all expectations with 50 babies supplied in the first year, rising to 140 babies in the second. In the past eight months, 150 babies received donor milk.

Hospitals in other States and countries such as China were looking at setting up their own milk banks.

Dr Hartmann said:

[…] “What’s been particularly rewarding is that we’ve been flooded with calls from mums who want to donate, often women who have babies and have an oversupply of milk.”

This story has a particular resonance here, as my extended family has been through this journey recently.

Having a micropreemie is an unthinkably stressful experience, with round-the-clock milk expressing combining with the grief and worry of a very ill baby (or babies), the physical recovery from birth, and the commuting to and from the intensive care unit; often while caring for other children.

When a baby is born very early, the milk can come in extra slowly, as the full breast development that occurs during pregnancy may not have had time to occur. The milk bank supplies essential human milk to very ill babies, taking pressure off their mothers and giving them time to develop their own milk supply for when the babies begin to nurse.

On top of the ordinary risks of formula feeding that full term babies may experience, preterm babies fed on cow’s milk formulas have an dramatically increased risk of necrotising enterocolitis, one of the biggest killers of preemies – estimates vary, but the increased risk may be five-fold to ten-fold. Artificially fed premature babies also have an increased risk of other life-threatening infections in the NICU, particularly of the lungs and gut, as well as meningitis. Formula feeding may also reduce the chances of optimal brain development.

All of this adds up to a load off a mother’s mind when she knows her tiny, sick baby will be optimally fed whether her breasts happen to kick in quickly or not.

My thoughts go out to all the families with babies in the NICU, and I’m sending good vibes to all of the generous mothers donating their milk to help these children.

Categories: health, medicine, technology

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5 replies

  1. I really wish there was a milk bank here in Canberra that I could donate to. I may not be able to donate much at this stage since my boy is heading towards two and his feeding is slowing down, but it’s certainly a cause I would most definitely support since I’m already expressing during work anyway 🙂

  2. Nice timing. I just started pumping today. I was thinking of donating it when I get a big enough stash. However, the closest milk bank to me is quite a ways away. Mightn’t be feasible.

  3. My mum was born about six weeks premmie, back in 1942, in a country hospital. Her mother was very ill, so another woman on the ward nursed mum for a few days, in addition to nursing her own baby. The alternative would have been cows milk.

  4. I just spent a week with my three month old in the paediatric ward of the SA Womens’ and Childrens’ Hospital (she’s fine), and most of the babies there were premmies. I had to express a lot whilst there, since my babe couldn’t keep anything down for three days, and it made me a bit sad that they didn’t have a facility for me to donate it. Since mine is a bit older, I can express in one session the equivalent of, I don’t know, four or so newborns’ meals.
    So I hope that the WA success means that the other States will pick it up soon. I’d be more than glad to donate.

  5. A great story and one I hope encourages other hospitals to add the milk banks. I have blogged about this too!
    [Link removed, as it contains advertising by a major WHO Code-violating company. ~L]

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