Monday 9 April 2012

The Importance of Milk Donation

On Easter Sunday this amazing article was published in the Daily Mail. The Daily Mail, bless it, is not always known for being supportive of breastfeeding and this article was just lovely, and explains so clearly why donated milk is so vital for premature babies.

When a baby is born prematurely, many mothers can only express tiny drops of milk, however a premature baby needs volumes of milk straight away beyond what many mothers can express initially. A NICU has two options, use formula, or use donated breast milk.

Formula for very early babies has been shown to be implicated in NEC, necrolitising enterocolities, as the baby's gut is not ready to process its complex make up. I'm not dissing formula in any way at all, and most of my readers will know that Joseph was formula fed from the time he was term until the age of one.
Kylie expressing on the unit with my friend Medusa the Medela pump!

In our unit, donated milk was not available, there was no milk bank. So when my supply dipped I had no option but to put Joseph on formula, which made me very sad. If donated milk had been available I would not have hesitated to use it.

In the UK milk banking is confusing, there are seperate milk banks dotted around the country, so again we see that there is a post code lottery when it comes to whether your baby will be offered donated milk at all. I've been looking at the United Kingdom Association of Milk Banking website, to find out more.

UKAMB have some tips for mothers who need donated milk, and also have a campaigning section on their website.

I think the key is raising awareness of the importance of donated milk, and mothers offering to donate, and parents requesting donated milk for their baby, if its needed. Neonatal units in hospitals where there is no milk bank need to know of the importance of donated milk and need mothers like us to ask for it, whether its to donate or to use it. I have heard too many sad stories of milk being dumped when there is over supply, and that milk could be used.

Before a mother donates milk they are screened via a blood test and an extensive questionnaire. Mothers usually can only donate if they are feeding babies under 6 months of age, as "newborn" milk is more appropriate for a premature baby's needs. Donated milk is then pasteurised to ensure it is safe for premature babies.

Donated milk is safe. I had to laugh at a comment on the Daily Mail article (yes, I know, reading Daily Mail reader's comments is bad for the blood pressure)

sick, the thought of someone elses breastmilk being given to my baby gives me the creeps
To me, giving a tiny little baby milk from a cow gives me the creeps! How can milk from another species be right, again I remind you that Joseph was formula fed, so I am not anti formula and totally accept that breastfeeding is not always possible, no one knows that more than me.

If your baby is on a neonatal unit and you are unable to express enough, then ask for donated milk. If you are a mum who is currently breastfeeding, consider donating your milk.

And to finish, I really want you to read this, although sad beyond measure, this mother's story is truly inspirational.

For more information on milk donation and getting involved visit the UKAMB website.


  1. Brilliant post one that really makes you think, Baba was formula feed, and I never even thought about breast feeding and did not produce hardly any milk either, however if my baby was in that situation and needed it it is something I would seriously think about and ask about. Thanks x

  2. we donated milk, I had such an oversupply it was a blessing to do so.

  3. I had a prem baby at 24 weeks and thankfully I could express plenty of milk as I was able to stay at the unit day and night for almost 9 weeks. By week 8 I donated 80 bottles of breast milk to help other prem babies. There was a baby on the unit who had NEC and I watched her have her last rights, thankfully she did survive. Breast milk is best in these circumstances and mums should be encouraged to donate if they can by being made aware of such a precious gift. Highlighting the positives can only do more good.

  4. Elainemartin309 April 2012 at 22:18

    Interesting post, you never think on this at all, and such a good concept. When you think that a long time ago there was "Wet Nurses" employed for a similar reason, and was considered perfectly fine, a milk bank really isn't unreasonable nor unattainable if more NHS Trusts got on board.