The Australian Red Cross Blood Service has made its first delivery of donated pasteurised breast milk to the Nepean Hospital, which houses one of NSW’s nine neonatal intensive care units (NICU).
The service, launched on Sunday in partnership with the NSW Government, will collect excess breast milk from mothers and send it to a processing centre in Sydney where it will be tested, processed then distributed to premature babies.
Sydney mum-of-two Catherine Pierrepont has become one of the first in the state to donate her milk (almost 14 litres) to the service.
The 31-year-old knows exactly what it’s like to experience the shock and anxieties of birthing a baby prematurely, having recently delivered a girl at 30 weeks.
The northern beaches mum brought her little girl home two weeks ago after she spent six weeks at Royal North Shore Hospital’s NICU.
“I didn’t have awesome supply in the beginning,” she told AAP.
“You kind of go into robot mode and you know your job is to express and that’s what you do.”
After weeks of expressing milk, Ms Pierrepont said she built up a big stash and didn't want her excess "liquid gold" to go to waste - she was excited by the option to donate.
"While the most important thing is the baby is fed, it's nice to offer parents options with respect to formula vs breast milk," she said.
It is estimated more than 2000 litre of milk will be needed annually for the 1000 babies born prematurely in NSW each year.
Donors will have to meet eligibility criteria, established through a lifestyle questionnaire and blood test to screen the donor for infectious diseases.
Crucially, mothers must show they have enough milk for their own babies and answer questions about their baby's health before they can donate.
The milk is also tested using a pre- and post-pasteurised sample before it can be passed on to the hospitals.