Help increase the survival rate of premature babies by almost 70 per cent

24 September 2019

Mum Claire gave birth to Sacha, who is now 3, and his baby brother Shiloh at The Wesley Hospital. As a parent to two children born prematurely, Claire encourages mums to donate their breast milk to the Queensland Milk Bank, to help increase the survival rate of premature babies by almost 70 per cent.

Claire's experience

There’s a milk fridge in special care, with a big glass door, and everyone expresses because babies aren’t well enough to breastfeed. So everyone has a little collection container which is like a takeaway box and you put it in your little bottle of milk that you’ve expressed. It’s daunting when you first have your baby because you look at some of these boxes that are full to overflowing with bottles of milk and some only have a couple of tiny tubes and some only have bottles with 20ml inside them instead of 150ml.

But for the mothers that are having trouble producing milk because they’re not having the cuddles with their baby that stimulate the milk production and because they’re very stressed and sleep deprived. I can’t imagine being in that position and looking at that milk fridge and knowing you can’t fill up your little container. Seeing that and watching my friend go through that was really awful.

It is so hard when you don’t have enough milk because as a premmie mum you only have one useful job for your baby in those first few days, and it is to express and feed them. So to not be able to do that job, when you’re at a stage when you can’t bath them or hold them or take them home…

This time my milk didn’t come in fast enough. And the nurses said how do you feel about donated breast milk and I said ‘oh yeah, I’ll donate again’ and they said, ‘No how do you feel about us using donated breast milk for your baby, to buy us some time for your milk to come in?’ And that was the biggest shock.

We didn’t need the donor milk in the end, although I would have had no hesitation in accepting it had we needed it - for babies under 34 weeks it is just so much easier than formula for them to process. They are already so delicate.

My milk did come in in time and, like many premmie mothers, I now have a freezer full at home. Once your baby is out of hospital and thriving, it takes just a simple blood test to ascertain your fitness to donate breast milk to the Queensland Milk Bank. Many premmie mothers choose to do so because we know what it’s like to be in that precarious transitional period between having an early baby who needs to be carefully tube fed and having enough milk to feed them in the early days.

You can donate just once or on an ongoing basis.  Many premmie mums just donate once when bub comes out of hospital, enough to clear space in their freezer for mince and magnums! We donated six litres of milk with Sacha and whilst that isn’t much, he got a little certificate thanking him and I feel like that is silver lining to prematurity. I like to think of it as Sacha’s first good deed - because he was born early we were able to help who knows how many other mums and bubs. Some premmies only need 20mL to tide them over until Mum can give them enough, to give you an idea.

It wouldn’t have occurred to me to donate if he had been full term - I wouldn’t have understood how essential it was. We’ll be donating again this time, for sure. Shiloh has about 20 litres banked for the occasion!

To find out more about donating breastmilk to the Queensland Milk Bank visit

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