For the last 4 months or so – since the birth of Annie Mo, Eirene has been slowly filling up a storage crate in a deep chest freezer, with breast milk (pictured above). Every morning, she’s been expressing a bit, then popping it in the freezer. There’s probably around 8 – 10 liters in there. She signed up to be a donor of surplus breast milk so that her milk could be used to help save the lives of premature and sick babies whose mothers are unable, for many reasons, to provide them with sufficient breastmilk of their own.
Today, a fella on a blood donor motorbike came and collected it, to take it to The Neonatal Unit at the Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax, where they’ll get it ready to give to babies.
Breast is best
Whilst many babies thrive on formula milk, for years now the general consensus is to use breast milk where ever possible – and exclusively for the first 6 months (according the the World Health Organisation). It really is incredible stuff. As well as helping to ward off everything from diabetes to flu, studies have shown that breast milk fed babies benefit from increased intelligence.
Mother produces several forms, each perfectly balanced for babies needs; from the very early protein rich verity of milk known as colostrum, that’s packed with antibodies to protect the newborn against disease, to the thirst quenching foremilk (ideal for hot days like today) to the filling, nutritious hindmilk – all giving baby exactly what they need.
The United Kingdom Association for Milk Banking
A lot of effort goes into safely getting this wonder liquid to the babies who need it. Included in the service that the UKAMB provide, is the screening of the donator to make sure she’s not carrying any disease. They provide sterilised bottles and coordinate logistics to get the milk to one of the current 13 milk banks throughout the UK. They test the milk for bacteria and pasteurise it before the recipient baby can have it, as well as providing information, education and practical support for everyone in the chain – hospital doctors, nurses, midwifes and scientists as well as donors and recipient mums.
As well as this, they’re sharing their expertise to help implement similar programmes throughout different parts of the world.
From an outsiders looking in perspective, an observation I’d offer to the perpetuation of this wonderful notion, is to increase awareness in the UK – perhaps particularly in community health care. For instance, Eirene heard about the concept before Annie was born but unfortunately Eirene’s health visitor didn’t know anything about it. Eirene subsequently acquired the knowledge of UKAMB through a friend and got involved, but an awareness campaign to post natal health visitors might be a boost to the public awareness of milk donation in general, which surely can’t be a bad thing.
If you’d like to help, I’m sure they’d appreciate it – they’ve got a My Donate page, where you can set up and coordinate a fundraising event, or simply donate a sum of money. Click here for the UKAMB mydonate page or to find out more about the charity and the service it offers, click here to visit the UKAMB home page.