Appeal as human milk bank stocks run ‘dangerously low’

Milk Bank manager Ann McCrea is concerned at the low level of stock and hopes for more donations     RMG54

Milk Bank manager Ann McCrea is concerned at the low level of stock and hopes for more donations RMG54


THE Human Milk Bank, based in Irvinestown, says it urgently requires breast milk donations from mothers with babies under six months old, as stocks are “dangerously low” after one of the busiest years for the unit.
Since 2000, the Milk Bank has provided human milk for thousands of premature and sick babies all across Ireland, many of whom would have died without this help.
However, the Milk Bank can only do this through the kindness of its donors: breast-feeding mothers who give some of their milk so that other mothers can feed their sick babies.
Having worked as a health visitor in Omagh, Enniskillen and Irvinestown for years, Ann McCrea has been manager of the human milk bank for the past 16 years. This was in response to a child in the old Erne Hospital’s Neo-natal unit who developed Necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), a life-threatening bowel condition which mainly affects premature babies, and no donor milk was available. 
Ann says milk stocks have been decreasing daily as their workload has drastically increased: “We really need new mothers to help with the rising demand. We’re stuck for milk to be pasteurised for distribution to the various units this week. It goes in cycles but this current shortage is down to the fact that we have been so busy providing milk to many babies with various complex medical problems for so long. The most worrying issue is that we are now coming into the start of the holiday season when our donors go on holidays leading to a drastic drop in supply. This means we won’t be able to continue supporting the babies we have been during the holiday season so we desperately need extra help.”
Last year, 420 new donors were recruited with 1500 litres of milk leaving the bank to help 856 babies at 20 hospitals across Ireland. This included 90 sets of twins and 17 sets of triplets and even occassionally quadruplets and quintuplets. The bank also helps babies with major gut or heart problems by providing milk to their homes as well as those being cared for in hospices.
The milk bank is gearing up for an equally busy year in 2016, which Ann says is great news: 
“A lot of our milk is going out to babies in neo-natal units and those who have had heart surgery as they are most at risk due to poor circulation. We have had an increase in demand from hospices for babies who sadly aren’t going to be with us for very long because it keeps them comfortable and less stressed.”  
Mothers who have unfortunately lost their babies have also generously donated milk in their baby’s memory.
“We find that when mothers whose babies have sadly died realise how many babies their milk has helped, it assists them in the grieving process,” said Ann. 
 If you are interested in donating milk please contact the Western Trust Milk Bank on 686 28333 or email

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