The Red Cross Blood Service has launched a milk bank for vulnerable premature babies in New South Wales and South Australia.
These babies face significant health challenges, and breast milk is the preferred choice of feeding to prevent health complications related to their early birth.
A mother?s own milk may not always be available or limited, and until now, not every Neonatal Intensive Care Unit has had access to donated milk.
NICU hospitals will now be able to order milk ?on demand? as they would with blood. Around 2300 litres of milk will be delivered to NICU every year, helping more than 1000 babies.
The Milk Bank operates just like a blood bank ? donors will be screened for diseases, and milk will be tested and pasteurised.
Mothers in the Sydney metropolitan area who produce an excess of breast milk may be eligible to donate, and can contact the Milk Bank for further information
Why a milk bank?
Mother?s breast milk has long been considered best for a baby?s nutrition – it contains a gold mine of health-boosting molecules that helps protect babies from infections.
It is particularly vital for premature babies, who are most at risk of health complications.
Producing milk can be a challenge for the mums of some premature babies, and the solution is surprisingly easy.
Milk banks are able to collect, process, test, and distribute milk from mothers who are producing more milk than their baby needs, to the mothers of premature babies unable to produce enough.
To donate to the Red Cross Blood Services? Milk Bank, mothers must first undergo a screening process, similar to a blood donor, as safety is paramount.
Donors are asked about their health, lifestyle choices, and previous medical history.? They are also required to undergo a series of blood tests to screen for infectious diseases.
They are able to express, freeze and store their breast milk in their home. The Milk Bank sends out an information pack on how to safely handle the milk.
The precious cargo is picked up by Milk Bank staff, each donation is labelled with an express date and donor name to ensure the donation can be tracked and recorded.? A donor questionnaire form is completed and accompanies every milk donation.
The precious cargo is then packed into special containers called shippers, to keep the milk frozen. These shippers are delivered to our state-of-the-art Milk Bank in Sydney.
Each donation of milk is then pasteurised, to destroy potentially harmful bacteria and viruses, before being frozen at <-18?C. The milk can be stored up to 3 months at this temperature.
Milk is supplied to babies born before 32 weeks gestation or less than 1500 grams birth weight. These babies are at the highest risk of medical complications.? ?For these babies, and their families, having access to pasteurised donor human milk will be life changing.
Pasteurised milk is available in two sizes, 30mls and 120mls, and will be delivered directly to the NICU once an order comes in.
Milk Bank staff work closely with hospitals to provide education resources and support for staff.
The benefits of pasteurised donor human milk for mothers and babies is tracked to ensure results are monitored, including the long-term impacts on their health and breastfeeding rates.