Much like donated blood, donor human milk can be life-saving.
Help us to ensure that every tiny baby who needs it can access donor milk. A donation of £20 could help save a premature baby's life.
During the COVID-19 pandemic we must protect the most vulnerable amongst us - this includes babies born prematurely in our hospitals. The Human Milk Foundation https://humanmilkfoundation.org/ work directly with NHS hospital neonatal intensive care units to provide donor human milk. Much like donated blood, donor human milk can be life-saving. Please watch the video above to find out more.
Premature babies are very vulnerable
Babies born early are at risk of a number of conditions due to their immature immune systems. One such condition is necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) - this condition kills more babies each year than childhood leukaemia. Human milk protects babies against developing NEC, so when mum is unable to produce milk or when she is very unwell, donor milk acts like a medicine to protect the baby.
Donor milk is currently a scarce and precious resource
Due to a lack of funding to human milk banks, there is not enough donor milk available for every baby who needs it to have access to it. This means that only the very tiniest and sickest babies who meet specific criteria are considered eligible, and many babies therefore continue to develop NEC and very sadly die.
It doesn't have to be this way. We believe that every baby who could benefit should have access to donor milk. With your help we can make this a reality and save babies' lives - your present makes their future.
It costs us £100 to onboard each milk donor
Many more families have needed our service during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet our funding has been cut for the year due to event cancellations and restrictions. To meet the need for donor milk, we urgently need to scale up milk bank operations. It costs us £100 to onboard each milk donor, which pays for their donor packs, blood tests, screening and equipment. We currently have to turn mothers away who want to donate their milk due to lack of sufficient funds, which is heartbreaking. This precious milk could be going to babies and saving lives.
As a charity, we rely upon the goodwill of donations to remain operational and continue helping families. An increase in capacity will mean lab team members working extra hours, more equipment, recruiting more milk donors and transporting larger quantities.
If we hit our goal of £30,000 we will be able to onboard 300 new milk donors whose milk would feed between 2000-3000 babies.
Every pound we raise will make a huge difference:
£10 pays for a milk donor onboarding pack.
£20 feeds a premature baby for a day.
£50 keeps our volunteers delivering milk for a week.
£100 pays to fully recruit one milk donor – whose milk would feed on average 20 babies.
£250 helps us to support 10 mothers struggling at home to access high quality lactation support and access to donor milk where needed.
£500 pays for the sterile containers we need in the milk bank to hold the pasteurised donor milk for one month.
Watch our interview with Victoria Derbyshire on BBC News
All milk donors are screened in the same way as those who give blood
Danielle is one of our milk donors - watch her talk about why she chose to donate her milk to help other babies.
Milk donors are mums who have milk that is surplus to their own baby's needs. They express their milk at home and arrange a collection when they have 2 litres or more of donated milk in their freezer. Milk donors are screened in the same way as those who donate blood. Donor milk is pasteurised to ensure it is safe, checked by microbiology and stored in specialised freezers at the Hearts Milk Bank. The milk is collected by SERV 'Blood Biker' volunteers and delivered to hospitals and to mums at home with cancer.
We take safety incredibly seriously, and work according to the NICE Clinical Guideline for the operation of a human milk bank. Every process at the Hearts Milk Bank aims to remove any risk of transferring the COVID-19 virus, and you can read more about how we are working with experts and donors to ensure safety here.
Ada was born prematurely in May and received donor milk from The Hearts Milk Bank
Ada was born at 35 weeks gestation during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her mum, Lucy had a double mastectomy last year so had no breast tissue to be able to produce her own milk. "The mastectomy was a turning point in my life once I healed. Imagine our shock on that Friday in November when we found out I was pregnant. Once the initial shock cleared, the next thing I thought was how I was going to feed this baby. I had no breasts. The thought of not being able to breastfeed this baby truly broke me."
Lucy did some research and contacted The Hearts Milk Bank who arranged for donor milk to be issued to feed Ada. "I was so happy to see our milk freezer filled with donor milk just for my baby who was in SCBU at that moment. It seemed even more important that she should be able to access some donor milk. She started on 1ml per hour through her tube and by the time we were discharged, she was on 70ml every 3 hours. She absolutely thrived on donor milk reaching and then surpassing her birth weight by day 17."
Meet the Milk Bank Team
The Human Milk Foundation was conceived in 2017 by a group of parents, scientists, milk bank experts and doctors. The charity supports The Hearts Milk Bank - https://heartsmilkbank.org - the UK’s first independent, non-profit human milk bank, founded by Dr Natalie Shenker and Gillian Weaver. With the twin aims of providing equitable access to donor milk and initiating research, the HMB has rapidly grown to provide screened donor milk to hospital neonatal units across the southeast, London, East Anglia and beyond. Since it was founded, 659 milk donors have donated their milk - with 1486 litres going to hospitals to help tiny babies.
The HMB also provides milk to families in the community – over the first 3 years of operation we have sent over 2000 litres of milk that could not be used for hospitals to help over 100 families. No charge is made, and all milk was provided under the oversight of a healthcare professional. All babies have thrived, and in the cases where the donor milk was used to support the mother to establish her own milk supply, all the mothers successfully did! Many report that receiving donor milk made a significant positive impact on their mental health.
Alongside the provision of donor milk, the charity is enabling a raft of research in the field of human milk science, including ground-breaking work into the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in human milk. This is only the start of a range of research projects, working with collaborators in the UK and further afield.
If you have received donor milk from us and would like to share your story to help raise awareness of the impact it can have, please do get in touch with Flic for a chat - [email protected]
Thank you so much for your support - together we can help our tiniest babies.