St George's Hospital Milk Bank

First Touch is committed to breastfeeding mothers with babies on the unit. We have funded breast pumps and a breast milk pastueriser as well as cool bags to help mothers transport their expressed milk. We have also undertaken various initiatives to make the expressing rooms more comfortable.


Our NNU Nursery Nurse, Sarah Brown explains the role of the milk bank at St George's Hospital  

St George's Hospital Milk Bank has been in operation since 1980 and is one of only 17 in the UK. The neonatal unit has over 600 admissions yearly and it has supplied hundreds of these babies with donated breast milk. Its purpose is to process the donated milk from well breastfeeding mothers and distribute it to surgical, sick and premature babies, both at St George's and occassionally, other local hospitals. Breast milk should be the first milk that these babies receive. This could not happen not happen without the generosity of our donating mothers.

Sadly, some mothers are unwell or unable to produce enough breastmilk for their sick or premature baby so by giving these babies donated breastmilk, it greatly increases their chances of survival and reduces complications which may be life altering to them.

The donors can be mothers whose babies have been on the neonatal unit or mothers in the community. Clinics, health visitors and midwives can inform mothers about donating and what is involved. Many donors also visit the UKAMB (United Kingdom Association for Milk Banking) website.

Once a mother decides she would like to donate her milk, blood will be taken from her and tested for harmful viruses that may be passed through breastmilk. Questions regarding her general health and lifestyle will also be asked and a consent form is signed. The donating of breastmilk follows the same strict crtieria as blood donation.

The milk is then collected from the mother and taken to the milk bank. Here it is heat treated and then cooled in a pasteuriser. The pasteuriser is the most important part of equipment in the milk bank. It operates in a similar way to a washing machine by beginning on a hot cycle and heating the water up to 63 degrees celsius. A crate containing the bottles of donated milk is then placed into the water in the pasteuriser and the lid is closed. It stays at this temperature for 30 minutes whilst the milk is heat treated to remove any harmful bacteria and viruses. Next it empties and refills itself twice with cold water. The whole process takes an hour and a half. The pasteuriser is linked to a computer so we can track the temperature inside throughout the whole process.

A sample of both the pre-heated and post-treated milk is then sent to the microbiology laboratory and tested. Once all the mother's blood results and milok results are received and are satisfactory, the milk is then ready for use by the babies on the unit.

Here at St George's Hospital Neonatal Unit, donors and their donated breastmilk are in very high demand, due to the number of premature, sick and surgical babies we care for. Each baby can consume anything from 30mls to 500mls of milk per day. In 2011, we had 120 litres of breastmilk donated to us, which enabled 74 babies to benefit from it.

if you would like more information about becoming a breastmilk donor for St George's Hospital Neonatal Unit, please visit the UKAMB website or call the milk bank co-ordinators on 020 8725 4723/0265 .

Baby in a blanket