Breast milk bank issues appeal for new donors to aid ill babies
Northern Ireland's only human milk bank is calling for more women to come forward as milk donors to boost supplies for premature and seriously ill babies.
The milk bank is based at the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen, and provides a service to mothers and babies on both sides of the border.
The service also helps babies with major gut or heart problems by providing milk to their home.
It needs around 100 donors to meet current levels of need, but currently has just 20 donors in its books, the BBC reported yesterday.
Human milk contains substances that cannot be synthesized, which help the babies fight viruses and bacteria.
It has unique fats that help the immature brain, eye and nervous system develop better for improved intellect and sight.
However, most importantly for the premature baby, human milk helps to protect the baby's immature gut from necrotising entero colitis (NEC), a life-threatening condition where the gut ruptures.
Breast milk also helps to protect babies from pneumonia and septicaemia.
The Western Health Trust human milk bank has been operational since 2000 and is the only one in Ireland.
It provides over 1,500 litres of lifesaving breast milk to more than 900 ill or premature babies annually.
The service was suspended in 2018 after bacteria was discovered in the water supply.
Since reopening eight months later in December 2018, the Western Health Trust said it had processed about 570 litres of donor-expressed milk and provided about 510 litres of breast milk to 27 neonatal units in hospitals across Ireland.
Since 2018, the milk bank had helped 278 babies, many who required gut surgery or heart surgery, as well as 30 sets of twins and six sets of triplets, the trust said.
"We are very grateful to all the mums who donate milk to the unit - and there is always the need to recruit new donors," according to milk bank co-ordinator Jacinta Doyle.
Prospective donors to the milk bank must be non-smokers, not had a blood transfusion, are not on drugs that pass into breastmilk and not had a tattoo, body piercing or acupuncture in the last year. They must also be in good health, Ms Doyle added.
To become a donor contact the Milk Bank on 028 6862 8333 - or email TMB.SWAH@westerntrust.hscni.net