The Albanese Labor Government has committed $6 million over the next two year to extend vital support to thousands of babies born prematurely.
The funding will expand the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood’s “on demand” milk service will deliver a nationally consistent and sustainable supply of donor human milk for the medical care of premature babies, increasing hospitals able to order milk from 32 to 54.
The expansion means a 40% increase in the number of babies able to access Lifeblood’s donor milk, bringing the number to 2000, primarily in Neonatal Intensive Care Units and Special Care Units.
More than 24,000 babies are born prematurely in Australia each year and preterm birth is the greatest cause of death and disability in children under five. While breastfeeding is recommended from birth as it provides molecules to help protect babies from infection, sometimes babies can’t receive milk from their mother.
Without access to breastmilk, preterm babies can spend longer in hospital and are also at greater risk of infection and sepsis, long term health implications and necrotising enterocolitis – a life-threatening gut disease with a high mortality rate.
Early research by Lifeblood has found reliable access to donated breast milk reduces the risk of necrotising enterocolitis by a third for babies born extremely preterm.
Currently, Lifeblood supplied donor milk is available in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory and South Australia. The expansion will mean that additional hospitals in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory will have access.
Quotes attributable to Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney MP
“A baby being born prematurely is a deeply distressing time for any family. By providing these families with support while they navigate the early days is so important.
“Donated breast milk is such a gift to these families – giving babies the best care after a rocky start to life. I want to thank all the donors for their contributions and Lifeblood for providing this incredible service.
“We now know that donated breast milk saves lives. I’m so proud that our Government are continuing our support for Lifeblood to expand the donor milk program so that more babies across the country can have access.”