The UK’s newest milk bank, the Hearts Milk Bank, which was set up by a member of the West London synagogue, has been shortlisted for Best Not-for-Profit organisation at the National SME Awards.
The milk bank, which screens donated breastmilk for sick babies in hospitals in London and the south-east, launched a year ago after Dr Natalie Shenker, a former paediatric doctor joined forces with Gillian Weaver, a milk banking specialist.
The company operates like a blood transfusion service, beginning with the process of screening and interviewing potential donors and taking blood tests.
The milk is then picked up by volunteer motorcyclists who bring it to the bank, where it is microbiologically checked, pasteurised, heat treated, and checked again. It is then sent to all neo-natal units in the area.
Dr Shenker began donating five years ago, when she found that her freezer was full of milk she had expressed for her baby, but which was no longer needed. Her minister, Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers, then of West London Synagogue, suggested she donate it. However she discovered that there is a “postcode lottery” governing how donated milk gets used.
Hearts Milk Bank has been established to put an end to this lottery and “provide an assured supply of breastmilk for babies, irrespective of where they are born in London and throughout the southeast.”
Premature babies have a delicate and immature digestive system - ensuring they only receive breastmilk has been shown to help to protect them from potentially serious, even fatal, diseases and reduces the length of their stay in hospital. It can take longer for mothers of premature babies to be able to express enough breastmilk to feed their babies so safe supplies of specially treated donated breastmilk can help mothers to establish their own milk supply.
Dr Natalie Shenker said of the nomination: “This is a real validation of the hard work put in by all the team in the milk bank over the last 18 months. We are amazed to be one of just seven finalists from scores who were nominated.”
Across the country, 10 percent of babies are born prematurely, approximately 70,000 each year.
The Heart Milk Bank is currently fundraising for a refrigerated vehicle that can pick up milk from donors across the region, and you can support them here.