Scottish health bosses discuss national breast milk bank

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Media captionA petition has been lodged with the Scottish Parliament to make donor milk available to all babies

Health bosses are to meet to discuss the feasibility of a national Milk Bank for Scotland.

It would collect donated breast milk which is offered to premature babies whose mothers cannot produce their own.

There are 17 milk banks in the UK but only one of them is in Scotland, at Glasgow's Yorkhill hospital.

Premature babies who are fed formula rather than breast milk are more likely to contract serious infections such as necrotising enterocolitis (NEC).

Judith Simpson, consultant paediatrician at Yorkhill hospital, said: "Premature babies have immature immune systems so they're generally prone to infection.

Image caption Judith Simpson said breast milk contains certain proteins which are vital to premature babies

"And almost everything we do to support them brings with it the potential for infection, despite our best infection control efforts.

"Breast milk, with all the properties it has, has a big impact on reducing infection. It also protects against NEC, a devastating condition which can kill babies in a minority of cases."

A petition has been lodged with the Scottish Parliament to make donor milk available to all babies.

Donor milk is supplied by other mums who are producing a surplus or who, occasionally, have lost their own baby. Donors undergo screening to make sure the milk is healthy and disease free.

Glasgow's milk bank has provided milk to babies outside the city but only when it has a surplus.

As part of a pilot scheme this year, milk is being transported around the country by the Scottish Emergency Rider Volunteer Service, which normally transports blood supplies.

These motorcyclists and car drivers rely wholly on charitable funding.

Last month they transported donor milk to premature baby Sarah, making her the first baby in Aberdeen to receive milk from the milk bank. She is coming home on Thursday.

Image caption Elaine Buchan said her premature baby daughter Sarah could not digest the formula milk

Her mother, Elaine Buchan, said: "Sarah was born 13 weeks before her due date. Because she was born so early, my body wasn't ready to produce milk.

"Babies that young have difficulties digesting formula milk, they need mother's milk but if it isn't available donated milk is the next best thing.

"It was a big relief for us to get this. When we saw it coming Sarah's dad had a tear in his eye.

"Getting the donated milk prevented Sarah being sick with the formula milk. I just wish it was available for every child born in need, like Sarah."

Health bosses from Scotland's health boards will meet on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

The Scottish government said it supported a pan-Scotland donor milk service.

A spokeswoman said: "A meeting between NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and representatives of other NHS boards is due to take place to discuss the feasibility of increasing the capacity of the existing milk bank."

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