Donor Milk – Medela Supports the Weakest Babies

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Veronika Studer, Communication Manager
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Baar, Switzerland, April 28, 2009 - Human milk contains nutrients and antibodies that are essential for a baby’s development, particularly those born prematurely. When these tiny babies or other babies in hospital suffering from different conditions, cannot be breastfed by their mothers, pasteurized donor human milk from a milk bank is the next-best solution. The Swiss based company Medela is supporting the return of milkbanks by providing recognized experts such as Dr. Ben Hartmann the opportunity to speak about the development of milkbanks and the great efforts required to ensure increased survival rates and improved quality of life for these most vulnerable infants.

Premature babies are particularly susceptible to infectious diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Ensuring that these babies have a plentiful supply of human milk results in a decreased risk of developing necrotizing enterocolitis, a life-threatening condition resulting in inflammation of the intestines in these babies. The natural and vital nutrients contained in human milk also enhance the resistance and vitality of premature babies.

Having a premature baby is a very stressful event for a mother. As research shows human milk provides significant benefits for the growth and development of premature babies, mothers can participate the care of their baby by providing their breastmilk. However, the emotional strain and worry about their newborn infant can sometimes result in a mother's reduced ability to produce enough milk. Pasteurized donor human milk from a milk bank is the next best thing, helping baby to develop and reassuring parents that their baby is getting the best substitute possible.

Since the early 1980s, milk banks have disappeared from numerous hospitals across the world. However, this trend is now beginning to change. Setting up and running a milk bank requires extensive knowledge on the handling of human milk together with considerable administrative effort. This includes, for example, a careful selection process of the donors, their constant monitoring the testing of the bacterial content of the milk and ensuring its perfect pasteurisation. Leading maternity and Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) across the world are now embarking on a slow reintroduction of milk banks.

In August 2006, Dr. Ben Hartmann and his colleagues opened the first milk bank in Australia, The Perron Rotary Express Milk Bank (PREM Bank) at King Edward Memorial Hospital in Perth, Western Australia.  Since its opening, Dr. Hartmann has achieved outstanding success by incorporating the latest scientific insights and evidence into practice.

"Mothers of very premature babies often endure considerable stress from the fact that their baby has to remain in the intensive care unit. For that reason, and others, some mothers may struggle to produce sufficient milk for their baby," Dr. Ben Hartmann points out. "We support these mothers and their babies with pasteurised donor human milk to see them through this most difficult period."  It is a recognised fact that babies' immune systems benefit from the provision of human milk. Research is now exploring how donor human milk also supports the preterm baby. The redevelopment of milk banks is only the very beginning of a story, in which the very youngest members of our society play the major role.

Medela, the global leader in the production of breast pumps and breast-feeding accessories, provided funds for Dr. Ben Hartmann to travel to China in April 2009. The aim of his visit is to support positive trends towards a professional reintroduction of milk banks. For that same reason, Medela is supporting the Third International Breastfeeding and Lactation Symposium in Vienna in autumn 2009 as one of the event's main sponsors.

The enormous efforts, by scientists, physicians and numerous hospitals together with Medela are undertaken for the benefit of these vulnerable babies. The tragic events in China as the result of contaminated milk powder have again brought into question the wide spread practice of providing babies with artificial baby milk and have reawakened global interest in breastfeeding and the redevelopment of milk banks.

About Dr. Ben Hartmann

He has completed a PhD (plant cell metabolism and physiology) at the University of Western Australia in 2001. From 2001 – 2005 he ran his own small business (based in New Zealand and Melbourne) and in 2003 completed a Certificate IV in Small Business Management at RMIT. In 2005 he was employed to prepare a business plan for the Perron Rotary Express Milk Bank (PREM Bank) and was subsequently employed as Telethon Postdoctoral Research Fellow to implement the business plan and establish Australia’s first contemporary human milk bank. The PREM Bank began dispensing pasteurised donor human milk to hospitalised and ill infants in July 2006. Since April 2007 he has been employed as manager (Scientist in Charge) of the PREM Bank.
About Medela

Medela provides the most technologically advanced, superior-quality breastpumps and breastfeeding accessories to nursing mothers around the world. A longtime champion of breastfeeding, Medela is the only company to develop products based on research by the world's leading lactation experts. As a result, Medela's breastpumps are the number one choice of healthcare professionals and healthcare facilities worldwide.
Medela has developed an extensive line of products to meet the diverse needs of nursing mothers. These products include hospital-grade, double and single electric and manual breastpumps; breastfeeding accessories such as pump cleaning products, breast care products and specialty feeding devices; and maternity and nursing intimate apparel.

Founded in 1961 by Olle Larsson in Zug, Switzerland, Medela continues to grow under the ownership of the Larsson family. Medela serves customers through a worldwide network of distribution partners in more than 90 countries and its 13 subsidiaries in Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg), Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.