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Milk is for life – Croatia

Twins and triplets are more likely to be born early. And when they are, their mother has double or treble the need for a good milk supply to ensure they can receive only human milk.

This beautiful little boy, like his younger twin brother, was born in February 2020 at 32 weeks gestation in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Both boys were able to receive their own mother’s milk until they were 28 days old. At this point, their mother was discharged from the maternity hospital with her younger twin. Unfortunately, due to precautions in the NICU around transmission of Covid-19, the mother’s milk was no longer accepted (at the time the Coronavirus epidemic was very new, there were lots of unanswered questions and the safety of maternal milk was not yet confirmed.) As a result, at this point the older twin, pictured here on Day 30, started to receive donor human milk.

Fortunately, the first Croatian milk bank had opened in Zagreb a couple of years previously. It came about as the result of the dedication and hard work of a small group of clinical and feeding specialists and is closely linked to the National Tissue and Cell Bank based at the University Hospital.  For the next 45 days this little boy was fed with milk from the milk bank – he received almost 18 litres in total. The main reasons why he was prioritised for donor milk were because of his prematurity in addition to the potentially serious disease neonatal cholestasis.

A few days later the family, together with the whole of Zagreb, had more to contend with than just Covid-19 (as if that wasn’t enough!) When the twins were 33 days old a strong earthquake hit the city, damaging the maternity hospital and causing a mass evacuation of all the babies to another hospital. What a worrying time that must have been!

Despite the twin’s separation and the earthquake, this mother carried on expressing milk and feeding her younger son. When his brother was finally discharged, having grown well on the donor milk, he was breastfed until he was 6 months. His mother describes the donor milk he received as ‘Milk for life’. Here he is at 8 months and with his twin brother at 14 months, demonstrating just how well he has done despite not one, but two big challenges during his early months.

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