THE mother of a baby born at just 24 weeks old is working to raise the profile of Scotland’s milk bank – saying the donors helped give her baby the “best possible start”.
Claire Cressey was unable to give breast milk to little Emily as she was born so prematurely – before her body was producing properly.
It meant she relied on donated breast milk to give her the natural health benefits it brings, something Claire believes has helped the tiny tot reach 11 weeks.
She said: “At 24 weeks, weighing 1lb 3oz, there was absolutely no way Emily could digest formula. Then to our rescue along came the milk bank, of course unable to exist without the wonderful woman who take the time to live good healthy lifestyles so they can supply the best quality breast milk possible to help babies like Emily.
“If you sit and think for a moment what an amazing commitment these ladies make, it really is something special. Often these mothers have had sick children themselves which has brought them into the world of milk donation, juggling so much in their own lives but taking the time to donate, ensuring babies like Emily get the very best possible start.”
The donor milk bank first opened in Glasgow in 1978 at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, handling milk from eight to 12 donors annually helping up to 16 vulnerable babies each year.
It became a Scotland-wide service in June 2013 following its move to new premises at Glagow’s Southern General Hospital and provides donor milk to all neonatal units across Scotland. Last year, the service had 100 donors and provided donor milk to around 200 babies across Scotland.
Claire said: “We were often asked if it felt strange giving our daughter another woman’s breast milk. My answer was always the same – no.
“There’s nothing odd about it. The donor milk was simply another form of vital medicine Emily needed to survive.
“The milk banks are often overlooked, undervalued but a critical service. I would personally like to thank everyone who donates or works with this service – from the mums themselves, the organiser’s and delivery people. You do an amazing job.”
Emily was born at Simpsons maternity unit at the ERI on February 27, 16 weeks early and weighing little more than half a bag of sugar.
Since then, she has gone from strength to strength and is now being treated nearer to home at the Borders General Hospital, where Claire, who lives in Coldstream, is now enjoying bottle feeding her daughter.
Kevin Hill, director of women and children’s services, said the benefits of breast milk were well-documented.
He said: “For some babies, particularly those who are very premature or who have undergone abdominal surgery, this milk can be invaluable.”