Published: 16:20, 13 January 2022
| Updated: 19:12, 13 January 2022
Newborn babies and new mums struggling to breastfeed are being supported with a new milk bank which has opened at a Kent hospital.
The unit based at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford is the first of its kind in the county and provides donor human milk to babies in hospital neonatal intensive care, special care units and families at home.
The bank in the hospital's maternity department will help provide milk for sick and premature babies to receive safe, screened donor milk.
Caroline Jordan, infant feeding specialist midwife at Darent Valley Hospital, said: "These at risk babies will receive donor breast milk whilst their mums are being supported with establishing their milk supply.
"Breast milk has many unique components that protects these babies from complications of being born early, including reducing the risk of bowel problems (necrotising enterocolitis – NEC), eye problems (retinopathy - ROP), protection against infection and promoting brain growth and development.”
The hub was first thought up in 2017 by the hospital's neonatal breastfeeding lead nurses Helen Wilson.
Breast milk for babies needing it has been donated by women for mothers who were seriously ill themselves or could not produce enough milk for their children.
The unit is a partnership between the hospital, The Alexa Trust and The Human Milk Foundation and the Hearts Milk Bank.
Volunteers from the blood runners charity SERV (Service by Emergency Response Volunteers) then pick up milk and distribute it to other hospitals throughout Kent.
Mum Alex Antoniou, whose daughter Alanza needed donor milk, said: "I think it’s brilliant because I knew that she was getting the best milk possible when I was too unwell to provide it myself and until I was able to start expressing and breastfeeding when we were back together 10 days later.”
Prospective donors go through a screening process before donating their milk to ensure it is safe for them to consume.
Anyone who can help by donating milk to the hub can call the Hearts Milk Bank directly on 01582 314130 or 01582 314131 or email email@example.com