Royal milestone for premature babies

More than 100 premature babies have been fed using pasteurised donor human milk (PDHM) at the Royal Hospital for Women, less than 12 months after the Australian Red Cross launched its Milk Bank program.

The Milk Bank allows Neonatal Intensive Care Units across the state, in hospitals like the Royal Hospital for Women, to order PDHM on demand, just as they currently do for blood.

Donors undergo extensive screening before milk is collected, tested and pasteurised by the Australian Red Cross at its Sydney Processing Centre.

Once parents have provided consent, PDHM is fed to babies born less than 32 weeks gestation or weighing less than 1500 grams, when a mother’s own supply does not meet her baby’s feeding requirements.

Patty Everitt, Lactation Consultant at the Newborn Care Centre, Royal Hospital for Women, said it’s wonderful to have hit this milestone in just 10 months, thanks to the generosity of NSW mums.

“Mother’s milk provides the best nutrition and protection for premature, low birth weight infants, however it can take three to five days for mum’s milk to come in. It’s great to be able to use PDHM during this time, or if mum’s milk supply is insufficient to meet her baby’s needs.

"Breast milk lowers the incidence of necrotising enterocolitis and feed intolerance, it’s wonderful to have PDHM for these high risk infants," Ms Everitt said.

Stuart Chesnau, Executive Director, Business Growth and Innovation, Australian Red Cross, said PDHM is recommended by the World Health Organization as a first alternative to infant formula, when there is insufficient mother’s milk available.

Baby Flynn Gills was born at just 29 weeks gestation at the Royal Hospital for Women earlier this year. Mother, Emma Gills, was extremely grateful that her tiny baby was able to receive donor breast milk, as her own milk supply hadn’t come in yet due to his early arrival. 

“Flynn was so small when he was born so it was hugely reassuring to know that he was given the best start to life, thanks to the devoted staff at The Royal and the incredible Milk Bank program,” Ms Gills said.

close up of milk being labelled at the Red Cross Milk Bank