'Lifesaving': Breast Milk Bank Opens To Help Desperate Parents And Babies

Hundreds of premature babies will have access to “life-saving” donated breast milk, with the launch of New South Wales’ first milk bank.

The purpose-built facility in Alexandria will collect and pasteurise donated breast milk, to help mothers like Jenna Gregory.

Her son’s early arrival at 26 weeks meant her body wasn’t yet ready to meet his feeding demands, so she relied on breast milk donations, which she says saved his life.

Brendan and Jenna Gregory, with daughter Mia and son Mason (Kimberley Pratt)

“I was nervous to start with to give my child somebody else’s breast milk,” she said on Sunday.

“When you’re a mum of a premature baby you only have one job, because the nurses do everything else, and the fact that I didn’t have enough milk for him, I felt like I was a failure.

“[But] it was like some sort of angel came around and just handed me what I needed.”

Jenna with her son (Supplied)

The mother-of-two has always believed that “breast is best” and said the donor milk assured her she was feeding him “meat and veg over chicken nuggets”, so she’s proud that New South Wales now has this donor bank.

In a press conference on Sunday, state health minister Brad Hazzard said the facility will ensure families and babies get the breast milk in the “safest possible way”.

Before milk is given to the tiny humans, donors will be rigorously screened and the milk will be tested and pasteurised to remove and viruses and bacteria.

Baby Mason, who arrived premature (Supplied)

This follows years of underground milk exchanges between mums online and within their communities, creating potentially deadly risks for babies.

Adding another level of assurance, it will be run by Australia’s Red Cross Blood Service, who have spent the past 90 years screening, storing and processing life-saving blood donations.

They expect they’ll need around 2000 litres of breast milk per year, from 600 mums to feed 1000 premature babies.

Sydney mother Catherine Pierrepont was one of the first in the state to donate milk to the service (AAP Image/Supplied by Australian Red Cross Blood Service)

The service is already offered in South Australia and is in talks with other states, territories and health departments to work on a national scheme.

Breast milk is crucial for premature babies who need to build up their immunity, and to prevent life-threatening infections.