The mothers who have relied on the Milk Bank’s services to help their new born through those first days tell us their stories
THE MOTHER & BABY
Misty and her son Soren, born at 28 weeks…
“When a baby’s born, it doesn’t matter how old they are, they still need to be fed. At 28 weeks, my breasts weren’t ready yet. I was offered donor milk and said yes right away. It’s a whirlwind when you have a premy baby, you don’t overthink it. You’ve got so many other things to deal with and the benefits of donor milk outweigh any weirdness you may feel. It is a gift that your baby a) survives and b) is fed with the best thing possible.
I was given support on the wards and learnt how to get the colostrum out of my nipple and use a little pipette to collect it. It was like nectar. Every drop was so important. Soren had donor milk for five days while in intensive care, which was the time it took to get my own milk flow properly up and running. When babies are that prem, they get fed through something called a gavage, a tube that goes down their oesophagus into their belly. Every two or three hours, the nurses would have a syringe of milk and would drip it through. They don’t have the sensation of the sucking, but they do have the goodness.
It’s only in hindsight that I can appreciate what a valuable asset that donor milk was to me and how important it was for the future of my now perfectly healthy three-year-old.”
Angela, mother to Henry, 4, Charlie, 2, and Emily, three months…
Henry was born premature at 32 weeks so my milk hadn’t come in and he was only 1.45kg – so tiny. They gave him some donor milk for the first 48 hours and I was just so grateful. I had never really known about it, but I knew I wanted to breastfeed. To have someone else’s milk was a real gift.
So when I had Charlie two years later, I thought I could give something back. The fact that someone else could benefit was so great. So I started expressing with him, and then I contacted them again when I had Emily a few months ago. It takes about 20 minutes and the best time to do it is in the morning when you’ve got lots of milk and you’ve just fed them. It just becomes part of your routine. Some mums I know even express from one side while feeding from the other. It doesn’t have to be a full bottle every time, so it’s really easy to do.
If you’re willing to receive or donate blood, it’s just the same – it’s a bodily fluid. When I mention it in passing that I’m doing it, most people go, “Wow, that’s amazing, well done!” A couple of people go quiet, but you can see they’re thinking “Eeew!”, which is silly. It’s a way of giving something back. My son and I benefitted from it personally, but I’m always amazed by the mums who donate who didn’t. It’s such a small window of opportunity.
I am a trustee for the Winnicott Foundation (winnicott.org.uk), which raises funds for the units at QCCH and St Mary’s, and it really supports the milk bank’s work. We’ve got breastfeeding experts and lactation consultants on the neonatal units to help mothers establish their own supply. It’s a brilliant breastfeeding centre.
WANT TO DONATE?
Want to donate to the QCCH Milk Bank and help save a life? Get involved…
Email: email@example.com when your baby is around one month old and you have fully established breastfeeding. You need to be recruited before your baby is six months. You’ll undertake an initial screening and interview. Very few medications, however routine, are acceptable, as babies who receive donor milk have immature livers and may be on a number of drugs. You can’t donate if you are a smoker, using nicotine or nicotine-replacement therapies, or drink more than four units of alcohol a week. Then you’ll complete an extensive health questionnaire and consent to have blood tests.
Once you receive the blood kit, book an appointment with your GP to get blood taken. Put the sample in the box provided and pop in any postbox. If you get the green light, you’ll be asked to express an achievable amount (50-100ml, say) once a day. If you don’t have one, a hand pump will be provided. You’ll be sent sterile containers, labels and a freezer thermometer. Monitor your freezer temperature daily and ensure it is at least -18˚C. Keep milk separate from food. Milk should be frozen right away. When you have about two litres, a volunteer courier will collect it. The milk must arrive within 10 weeks of being expressed as it has to be thawed, pasteurised and refrozen before 12 weeks from the date it was expressed.