Today I was very fortunate to be invited to celebrate the 10th birthday of Cheshire and North Wales Milk Bank. To celebrate they have produced and released a DVD that explains how milk banking works and more importantly explains why neonatal units should, wherever possible, use human milk for babies born prematurely or sick. You can watch the DVD in four sections here.
When your baby is born prematurely you are encouraged to start trying to express within six hours. I was fortunate to have two brilliant midwives who did this for me, as my hands were battered and bruised and I was poorly. Their help was instrumental and I got a good supply established.
However, I was lucky. One of the medications I was on helps to stimulate supply, and I found it easy, in the beginning. For some women this isn't the case. They may be on medication contraindicated in breastfeeding, they may be too poorly, under immense stress, or have a medical condition such as HIV which is incompatible with giving the baby their own milk.
Sometimes donated breast milk is just needed for a short period until the mother's own supply is established. Sometimes giving formula can be devastating to the mother's own belief system, which can then make their own production even more difficult to establish.
Importantly, there is increasing medical evidence that breast milk can help prevent the deadly neonatal condition NEC, necrotising enterocolitis, which Joseph was diagnosed with at day 5. Joseph wasn't on formula, he was on total parental nutrition at the time, but was on breast milk from early on, and made a full recovery.
I was surprised today that there is some resistance by some units in using donated milk. My message to you is if you are a mum who is likely or has delivered early, know that donated milk is available and be prepared to ask for it. At ten weeks my supply sadly stopped, for one reason or another. The decision to give formula devastated me, I wonder if I had been given this option for a week whether it would have bought me a bit of time to get things re established again.
I was really impressed by the passion and dedication of the Cheshire and North Wales Milk Bank team and it was a truly enjoyable morning. I learnt so much more about the importance of milk banking and urge you to watch the video.