More Sick Babies To Access Donated Breast Milk

10 November 2017

More of Victoria’s sick and premature babies will be able to access pasteurised donated breast milk, thanks to the Andrews Labor Government’s expansion of the state’s only breast milk bank at the Mercy Hospital for Women.

Minister for Health Jill Hennessy today announced the Mercy Health Breast Milk Bank will start receiving donations of breast milk from another three neonatal intensive care services in Melbourne.

Human breast milk has substantial health benefits for babies, giving them the nutrients they need for growth and development into the future. However, some mothers experience difficulty providing sufficient breast milk for their premature babies – so pasteurised donor breastmilk is able to supplement the gap.

Evidence shows that donor breastmilk is preferable to infant formula in reducing the risk of necrotising enterocolitis, a serious illness that affects premature babies’ digestive system.

The Breast Milk Bank was established in 2011 with the support of the Mercy Health Foundation. It collects, stores, and processes breast milk donations from screened mothers who have recently given birth at Mercy Hospital for Women.

It provides pasteurised human milk for very sick babies – those born before 32 weeks gestation or whose birth weight is below 1500 grams in the hospital’s level 6 nursery. Since 2011, the Breast Milk Bank has had 279 donors and 603 recipients, and provided 186 litres of breastmilk to babies in the past 12 months.

The Breast Milk Bank will collaborate with the Royal Women’s Hospital, Monash Medical Centre and the Royal Children’s Hospital to establish satellite sites. This is expected to triple the number of breastmilk donors and recipients in Victoria.

The breastmilk will be sent by the satellites to the Mercy Health Breast Milk Bank in Heidelberg for processing. Pasteurised breastmilk will then be provided to sick and premature babies at the three satellite sites and Mercy Hospital for Women.

All donors will have to pass a screening questionnaire and blood testing before being accepted.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Health Jill Hennessy

“Our sickest babies deserve the best start in life. By expanding the donor pool, more sick and premature babies will soon be able to access safe donated breast milk when their own mother can’t supply enough milk.”

“These generous donations of human milk make a real difference to mothers and the health of their very small babies in special care.”

Quotes attributable to Neonatal Consultant and Mercy Health Breastmilk Bank founder Dr Gillian Opie

“I am excited that very premature and sick babies in other Victorian level 6 nurseries will soon be able to have the benefit of pasteurised donor breastmilk in circumstances when their own mother is not able to supply sufficient breastmilk, as has been the situation for babies at Mercy Hospital for Women since 2011."

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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