Calderdale’s milk bank gives babies a lifeline in the borough and beyond

Milk Bank at the special baby unit at Calderdale Royal Hospital. Paula Wood, Victoria Iggleden and Catherine Whitworth
Milk Bank at the special baby unit at Calderdale Royal Hospital. Paula Wood, Victoria Iggleden and Catherine Whitworth

A milk bank at Calderdale Royal Hospital is helping provide mums and babies in the borough and beyond with a vital resource.

Reopening in Huddersfield in 1993 after the HIV scare, the operation was transferred over to Calderdale when the two hospital’s neonatal units merged in 2008.

The milk bank is one of 16 across the UK and is the most northerly in England, helping those in need not just in Calderdale but in Bradford, Leeds, Sheffield and surrounding areas. The milk is donated by mums and helps pre-term babies.

There is a specific criteria for those wishing to donate. Catherine Whitworth is a sister on the unit and works in the milk bank.

She said: “There’s a large lifestyle and health questionnaire that we need to go through with potential donors and then there are blood tests to undertake for HIV, hepatitis B and C, HTLV and syphilis. If everything comes back appropriate we can accept mums for donation.”

Mums are asked to donate around three litres of milk and a volunteer can collect it, or alternatively local women can drop it off at the unit. Once the milk is expressed, it is frozen and it can be kept for three months before it is pasteurised. Following pasteurisation it is used within a further three months.

The amount of women that donate to the milk bank varies over the year.

Paula Wood, who works in the milk bank, said: “More often than not we need more donors. There are a lot of people who want to donate but for one reason or another they can’t.

“The milk is a supplement, we do try and get the mums to supply their own milk so we’re just a top-up to help those babies.”

“It’s a lifeline hopefully in the very early stages,” Catherine added.

Gina Henderson, 39, is a mum from Wakefield who spent time on the Special Care Baby Unit at Calderdale Royal Hospital earlier this year after her son was born six weeks early.

When she was there she saw the work of the milk bank and wanted to raise awareness of its work.

"It's amazing how it preserves life," she said. "I imagine being a mother on the unit who cannot breast feed because her baby has come early must be incredibly distressing.

"That's why I wanted to help."

Gina donates to the milk bank and she urges anyone who would like to help to see if they are eligible to donate. She said: "It gladdens me that I am giving babies a chance and it is such an incredible and vital service.

For anyone wanting to find out more information, or see if they are eligible to donate, visit www.ukamb.org.

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