THE SWAH-based Human Milk Bank has seen demand for its life-saving services soar by a quarter over the past two years.
Last week, during a full day visit to the SWAH, Health Minister Robin Swann was given the chance to see the work of the Milk Bank, which provides milk for neonatal and seriously ill babies, at first hand.
Opened in 2000, the bank provides over 1,600 litres of expressed human donor milk to health trusts across the North and to 20 hospitals in the South, helping thousands of babies over the years. It is the only human milk bank in Ireland, and one of only four in the UK.
In recent times, it has seen a significant increase in demand, but it has also seen an increase in donors. In 2021, for example, the Milk Bank recruited 375 new donors, allowing it to provide milk to 844 babies.
“Safe and screened donor breast milk makes an important contribution to the care of premature and sick infants. It also helps to significantly reduce the number of cot days required by babies in neonatal units,” Minister Swann said after his visit.
“The Bank has seen a 25 per cent increase in demand since 2020 and therefore is appealing for more women to come forward and help provide essential donor breast milk for premature and seriously ill babies.”
Minister Swann thanked all those who ran the service and recognised the generosity of the donors.
Head of service for public health at the Western Trust, Hilary Campbell, said the Milk Bank was delighted to welcome Minister Swann, so he could see it was an “incredible service which helps to provide essential donor breast milk for babies in neonatal units in hospitals throughout Ireland.”
Noting of the 844 babies to receive milk last year 234 were either a twin or a triplet, Ms Campbell said it was “essential” the Milk Bank continued to recruit new donors.
“We would appeal to expectant mums to consider becoming a donor and for our donor mums to spread the word about the Human Milk Bank as this is the best way to help us recruit new mums,” she said.
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