Thursday, 11 April 2013

Milk Banks - Why Use Donated Milk?

Liquid gold. That is my milk that I expressed for Joseph whilst still in hospital. Breast milk is more than just food for babies, its medicine, and for babies born extremely or very premature, breast milk is essential.

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.


  1. When my youngest was on nicu in calderdale/Halifax and got transfered to another unit, id expressed that much for my little one and stored it in their freezer that I couldnt transport it all, so rather than bin it i donated it for use for other babies.
    I felt so good about myself for doing it because I knew what a difference it had made to my LO's recovery and progress and i knew that more babies were going to benefit from what I'd donated.
    Lovely blog post. Something very close to my heart xx

  2. It's so important, when my middle son was born, I massively overproduced milk, research was still going on about how effective donated milk could be and I donate 10 litres of 'spare' EBM to a research program in Oxford. Just 2 months after this the Cheshire Unit pasteurised their first litre for use.
    When my daughter was born 5 years later, I had given birth at a very busy time and I was ill, no one was available to help me start expressing, I was well into the next day before I could get everything I needed organised. I really struggled with my supply in those first weeks and I had to consider being on the receiving end of the service. And I realised that giving her human milk actually seemed far less strange than the idea of formula. My supply picked up, I didn't need it, in fact I was able to donate.
    Raising awareness of how great this service is, to mothers who could not only use this service but also donate, about how vital this service is to some babies, is a great way to spend your day and a blog post xx