Breast milk is often referred to as ‘liquid gold’ and for those who are unable to breastfeed, some are turning online to source donor milk for their babies.
Local mother-of-two, Preethi Arvind, started donating her excess breast milk in 2016 after the birth of her first son. She had her second son in April this year, and again was gifted with good supply.
“When looking around in various online mum groups, I realised that there were lot of families who were looking for donor milk for their babies due to several reasons. This prompted me to start my milk donations,” Mrs Arvind said. “I have donated around 225 litres to 17 babies including premature twins and mums who are sick and could not breastfeed. It is a very fulfilling and empowering experience for me to help babies in need.”
Mrs Arvind said she expresses four times a day and stores the excess milk in sterilised bottles, labelled milk bags and deep freezes it.
“I sterilise all the equipment after every use,” she said. “The process of pumping, storing and sterilising the equipment requires lot of time, effort and dedication but has to be done to ensure the safety of the stored milk.”
While a rewarding experience, Mrs Arvind said it is an uphill climb “to reach out, identify, connect and arrange the logistics with recipients who are in need of support” and suggests the presence of a centralised milk bank in the ACT would resolve a lot of issues.
Mrs Arvind said a milk bank would not only connect the donor and recipient community but would also benefit premature and sick babies at the Canberra Hospital.
An ACT Health spokesperson said donor milk is currently supplied to the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for babies born prematurely or unwell or where there is not enough expressed milk when feeds are introduced.
A feasibility study is currently underway of establishing a human milk bank in the ACT.
“Work is focused on gathering feedback and insights from the community and identifying potential costs and practical considerations of establishing a milk bank in the ACT,” the spokesperson said.
“The outcomes of this feasibility study are expected to be presented to the Legislative Assembly before the end of the year.”
Alongside this study, the ACT Government has participated in a national working group established by the Clinical Principal Committee, a subcommittee of the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Committee, to investigate regulatory practices regarding human milk and human milk products across different jurisdictions. Findings from this working group will further inform the feasibility of establishing a milk bank in the ACT.
The ACT Government is aware that private sharing arrangements of human breast milk occur in the ACT and said “it is important that parents who choose to take part in such arrangements ensure that they are fully informed of the potential risks”.