Push for SA’s first milk bank

milk banking
Flinders researchers are calling for a human milk bank to be set up in SA.

South Australia has a blood bank, an eye bank and even a brain bank – so why are we the only state in Australia that doesn’t have a milk bank?

“All the other major states in Australia operate milk banks but SA is really lagging behind because we’re not doing it,” Flinders University Nutrition and Dietetics senior lecturer Dr Jacqueline Miller says.

“Milk banks have significant outcomes on the survival and long-term health of premature infants; to be providing them with the best possible care we really need to have a milk bank here.”

The potential for the State’s first milk bank, including the benefits of human milk banking, will be explored at a seminar tonight (Tuesday, July 29), hosted by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Unit and the Women’s and Children’s Health Research Institute.

Among the guest speakers, Dr Miller will discuss the various financial, health professional and consumer perspectives of milk banking in SA based on research by 2013 Flinders Nutrition and Dietetics honours student Gina Lin.

The event will also present the findings of an ongoing review into the benefits of breast and pasteurised milk for preterm babies, which has been spearheaded by a team of Flinders researchers in partnership with the Women’s and Children’s Health Research Institute.

Dr Miller, a co-author of the research, says the findings show that human milk, including a combination of both pasteurised and breast milk, can protect against infant infections and eye diseases, as well as assist brain development later in life.

Based on the study, Dr Miller says the researchers plan to begin talks with SA Health on the establishment of a milk bank in SA which collects, screens, processes and dispenses prescription human milk donated by nursing mothers.

“The banks that operate in other states are almost all attached to neonatal units in hospitals – there are a couple in the community but the main focus is on providing milk to the sickest, preterm infants in hospitals.

“What we’re proposing is unique in Australia because it would be one milk bank to service all neonatal units in SA, which are located at Flinders Medical Centre and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

“We’ve established a working party and will inform key stakeholders of our progress and plans at tonight’s seminar; the next step will be to talk to the health department about setting it up.”

The seminar will also include a presentation by Dr Gillian Opie, neonatal paediatrician at the Mercy Health Breastmilk Bank in Melbourne, who will discuss the establishment and management of the Mercy milk bank.

Following the presentations there will be a panel discussion featuring Jo Slade, a consumer representative from the Miracle Babies Foundation who will discuss the parent’s perspective, and Professor Robert Gibson from the FOODplus Research Centre who will discuss the research perspective.

Towards Human Milk Banking in South Australia will be held at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Council, North Terrace, tonight (July 29) from 5:45pm. Registration is essential. Contact Renae Jordan at renae.jordan@adelaide.edu.au.

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