Breast milk banks in 'huge demand'
Wed, 03 Oct 2012 1:18p.m.
By Cleo Fraser
New Zealand could soon have breast milk banks to supply the "huge demand" from mothers who can't express enough milk for their newborns.
Mothers' Milk NZ recently launched a fundraising campaign to raise the $188,000 in start-up costs, including purchasing a pasteuriser, to create the country's only breast milk banks.
Spokeswoman Emma Ryburn says the group wants to set up breast milk banks in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch mainly to supply the "huge demand" to feed newborn babies in hospital intensive care units.
The milk will be supplied to a baby, such as those who are premature, whose mother isn't yet expressing enough milk or is too ill to do so.
Babies on these wards who are fed breast milk leave hospital about two weeks earlier than those who are given formula, she says.
A similar programme being run in Perth reports savings of close to $1 million per 50 babies, Ms Ryburn says.
Mothers' Milk NZ estimates annual costs of about $135,000.
Ms Ryburn says if the scheme is successful she would like to start a similar community-based one.
At present mothers are using social media to request breast milk from strangers.
"I'm looking for milk for my five-month-old as I am not producing enough for him - I need 300-500mls a day," one woman wrote on the Mothers' Milk NZ Facebook page.
Breast milk given privately isn't pasteurised, which means bacteria isn't removed, however milk that would be provided through Mothers' Milk NZ would be.
Ms Ryburn, who studied breastfeeding banks for her health science degree, says newborn babies are more susceptible to bacteria so should only be given pasteurised breast milk, unless it is from their own mother. Older babies have little chance of becoming ill by drinking breast milk that isn't pasteurised.
Ms Ryburn is encouraging the Government to get behind the scheme, adding that New Zealand lagged behind Australia which has three breast milk banks and India which has 25.
Breast milk banks were reportedly shut down in the 1980s over fears it would spread HIV or hepatitis.
Mothers' Milk NZ plans to screen milk for bacteria and check blood tests before distribution.
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