A NSW wide breast milk bank has been launched as lifeline to preemie babies.


Hundreds of premature babies across NSW will now have access to donated breast milk, following the launch of the first state-wide milk bank.

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.”

pregnant diabetic women safe to express
Many women are donating their excess breast milk. Image: iStock.

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.

Lactation consultant Dr Jennifer James says breast milk gives premature babies a greater chance of survival, especially from necrotising enterocolitis, a potentially fatal disease that attacks the gut and mostly affects very premature babies.

"Breast milk is a unique living fluid ... nutrients within breast milk are irreplaceable," Dr James told AAP following the launch of South Australia's first milk bank in September.

"The human gut is most responsive and most efficient at digesting human milk."

Premature babies often don't have the energy stores or developmental maturity to breastfeed, said Dr James, former director of Lactation Consultants of Australia and New Zealand.

Blood Service milk bank manager Christine Sulfaro has urged women to consider donating milk if they are eligible.

"It's a wonderful venture to be involved in," she told AAP.

Ms Sulfaro said the Blood Service was in "preliminary talks" with other states and territories interested in establishing milk banks following the success of its launch in South Australia in September.

What do you think of this new initiative? Tell us your thoughts in a comment below.

Bec Judd shares what it's like drinking her own breast-milk... alrighty then.

Video by MMC

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