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Pasteurised donor breast milk will now be available to South Australia’s most vulnerable babies under a new partnership between SA Health and the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.

The Women’s and Children’s Hospital (WCH) and Flinders Medical Centre will become the first neonatal nurseries in the country to use the Australian Red Cross Milk Bank.

“I am delighted to announce the start of this important initiative that will see our community’s smallest babies have access to pasteurised donor breast milk delivered straight to the neonatal nursery,” SA Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service Chief Executive Shelly Park said human milk banking had the potential to improve the health outcomes of so many at-risk babies.

“Our Milk Bank will mean neonatal nurseries in South Australia will be able to order pasteurised breast milk on demand, just as they currently do for blood, to help these premature babies.”

The Milk Bank will screen donors, collect, process and test donated breast milk, then track and distribute it.

WCH Neonatal Nursing and Midwifery Educator Jennifer Gillis said pasteurised donor breast milk was the preferred alternative if a mother’s own breast milk supply was insufficient.

“While a mother’s own milk is the best, many babies born prematurely in Australia do not have access to a sufficient supply of their mother’s own breast milk

“Breastmilk increases immunity, is high in nutrients and is easy for their immature digestive systems to process. It can also reduce the risk of complications in premature babies.”