The milk of human kindness

Ann McCrea of the Western Trust Milk Bank.
Ann McCrea of the Western Trust Milk Bank.

Supplies of breast milk vital to feed premature and sick babies across Ireland are at an extremely low level, the Western Trust has warned.

Women in Derry and Strabane who are currently breast 
feeding babies under six months old have been asked to consider making a donation of their breast milk which could save the lives of hundreds of babies.

Ann McCrea, Western Trust Milk Bank Co-ordinator describes breast milk as “liquid medicine.”

“Supplies are low,” she said. “The milk bank based in 
Fermanagh is an all island service. Even today we’ve been sent milk and it’s going down to a baby who needs it in Dublin.”

She revealed that the demand for breast milk is so great, they’ve been doubling their output every month.

“When little babies get sick they need breast milk,” she said. “Cow’s milk can make their gut swell. Breast milk helps them fight infection and helps babies on ventilators to get off them.”

She revealed that babies as young as 24 weeks receive the breast milk that is generously donated by other breast feeding mothers.

“Breast milk is needed for older babies too,” Ann said. “Particularly older 
babies who have problems with their stomach when it is born on the outside. Human milk helps them to grow bigger and speeds up the time from them being poorly to going home.

“Much of the milk is given to babies with heart problems. Cow’s milk is much more difficult to digest because the babies have poor circulation to the gut and puts them more at risk of infection.”

She said that for a variety reasons, many mums are 
unable to provide their own milk, or enough of their 
own milk to their babies, especially when they are born early or with complex medical needs.

That’s where the donors to the milk bank come in.

“The women who donate are amazing,” she said. “I call them supermums. Who else could do it but a mum?

“We’ve had a mum whose baby died and she went on to donate milk and kept doing so six months after her baby died. These women told me that donating helped them through their loss. One mum’s milk went to 27 babies.

“She kept the letter we sent her in her memory box.

“They do this because they are helping other mums and babies.”

The Western Trust Milk Bank, based in Irvinestown, 
recently celebrated its 12th birthday.

The Milk Bank issues approx 1,000 litres of breast milk every year helping in the region of 700 babies, including twins, triplets and occasionally quadruplets. Donors are mothers who are breastfeeding their own babies of 
6 months and under but 
have excess milk and are prepared to help other babies, by donating some of their breast milk.

A full history is taken from all potential donors and blood tests are undertaken to screen for infectious diseases.

Could you be a milk 
donor? If you are interested 
in donating milk please contact the Western Trust Milk Bank on: Tel: 028 6862 8333 or log on to

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