North-east mums encouraged to donate their breast milk for babies in need

An NHS milk bank providing screened pasteurised human milk to babies is searching for more donors in the North-east.

One Milk Bank for Scotland is hosted by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, but delivers milk across the country.

Last year they processed more than 1,100 litres of donated milk across all 14 health boards - helping 450 babies. So far, 2017 has got off to a flying start for the group, with over a 300 litres of milk going out so far this year.

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The milk bank provides screened pasteurised human milk to babies who have no or limited access to their own mother’s milk. These babies are often born prematurely, and as a result are at greater risk of infection and Necrotising Enterocolitis, a potentially fatal gut condition.

Debbie Barnett is the Donor Milk Bank Coordinator and recently visited the Aberdeen Maternity Hospital Neonatal unit to deliver batches of donor milk. She said: “We are indebted to mothers from all over Scotland who take the time to donate this precious gift. It was a pleasure to visit Aberdeen Maternity Unit and see firsthand how donor milk is used to support preterm and sick babies. It’s also important to thank our wonderful volunteer drivers from Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity, without whom we couldn’t transport the milk.”

While breast milk from a baby’s own mother is always the best nutrition, this may not always be available, especially in the first few days of life. But donated human milk is the next best alternative. With demand for donor breast milk on the up, One Milk Bank has issued a call for any breastfeeding mums in the NHS Grampian area to consider helping a baby in need.

You can donate milk if you are breast feeding your own baby, you are and remain in good health, and you are able to commit to a period of donating. To be a donor, your baby must be under 6 months old when you make your first donation. One Milk Bank can also take stored milk that is less than 90 days old and you can donate until your baby is between 9 and 10 months old.

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You cannot donate milk if you or anyone in your house smokes, you take certain medications, or you have had a tattoo in the last 12 months.

Donated breast milk is screened in exactly the same way as blood donation and batches of milk are prepared from single donors. The milk is sieved and poured into 50ml pre-sterilised bottles, before each batch of milk is pasteurised.

A sample of each batch is sent for microbiology screening before it is pasteurised and a second sample is taken after pasteurisation. If either of these samples is contaminated, the milk is discarded. Once the bottles are sealed, they are labelled with a batch number and split number so that each bottle is uniquely identifiable.

The bottles are frozen and once they are cleared for use they are relabelled with a new label stating they are now “For Human Consumption”. Each batch of milk, which also has an expiry date, is analysed for its nutritional content: fat, protein, carbohydrate, total solids and calories before being sent to babies in need.