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Two mothers, two babies, one story! – Switzerland

From the lovely Swiss town of St Gallen came two different but, in some ways, similar stories of two tiny girls Baby 1 and Baby 2. The mothers and infants are unrelated –their experiences though have much in common. Their babies were born at 29+4 and 31+2 weeks and both had hyaline membrane disease also known as respiratory distress syndrome which is a common problem for babies who are born early and so with immature lungs. It was more severe in the first baby who was intubated on her first day and then received additional respiratory support for 4 weeks. Although the first baby was born at an earlier gestation, the second baby weighed less due to growth restriction before she was born.

Both babies were able to have some of their own mother’s colostrum on day 1 but they also needed small amounts of donor milk. The donor milk supplement continued for 5 days for baby 1 and 4 for baby 2 but both were then able to receive all of their milk from their respective mothers. They both also quickly achieved full milk feeds which means they tolerated the donor and mum’s milk well and the amounts were able to increase daily until no support from parenteral (eg intravenous) nutrition was needed. 

Both babies had more than doubled their weights by the time they were discharged and both mothers had established such good milk supplies that they were able to donate milk to the milk bank. The volumes donated differed (one was 4.2 litres and the other 27.4 litres) but the measure of their success and generosity is the same. They both gave their surplus milk in order to help another tiny baby to have a better start with their enteral (milk) feeds. 

These stories will be familiar to milk bank staff all around the world – mothers whose babies needed some donor milk during their early days then going on to become donors themselves. It helps to dispel the idea that when donor milk is available it will prevent mothers from lactating successfully and breastfeeding. As long as there is optimal lactation and feeding support for the mothers and babies, the use of donor milk should and does help mothers to achieve a good milk supply. And what a powerful message its availability gives to all of the families in the NICU, throughout the hospital and indeed the wider community about how much human milk is valued in that facility!

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