The gods made immortal with drinks of nectar" - Sushruta, translated
Charlie, like many premature babies, received donor breast milk in order to protect his gut from developing a life-threatening condition where the bowel becomes leaky, resulting in death of the gut wall tissue; and often has fatal complications. This condition is caused by varying factors, but can be treated with human milk. Babies who are given formula milk have a three to tenfold increased risk of developing the condition, compared with babies who are given human milk.
The UKAMB are a charity which supports milk banks as well as being involved with ensuring the safe practice of milk banking, where donor milk is collected. Donors are screened prior to beginning donating. There are 17 milk bank centres in the UK.
Premature babies also benefit from kangaroo care, which is where the baby is kept skin to skin on the mother's chest for as much time as possible. The benefits of skin to skin contact are important for all babies, whether term or premature, formula or breastfed; but it seems even more crucial in those babies who are born early. Research is showing that babies who are kept skin to skin rather than in incubators stabilise more quickly, and has major implications for the psychological and overall well-being of the parent and the baby.
Recent research has shown that babies can attach to the breast from as early as 28 weeks, and be fully breastfeeding from 32 weeks, so this plus kangaroo care in the premature infant is vital.
As a nurse with 15 years of post-registration experience, including five years in critical care, I have seen the massive benefits in technology and medicine, and the fantastic advances that healthcare provides. I am in awe of the brilliant minds that have enabled what has been previously regarded as unthinkable, or impossible to achieve.
And yet my eyes are being opened wide to the brilliance of our own bodies, the wonderful, incomprehensible, microscopic abilities of the human being. We have all we are equipped to deal with, right here, inside of us all: if only we could tap into every aspect of that in an instant! If an infant is more likely to survive by being given breast milk, which contains so much to protect them; in comparison to a medicine which increases their chance of death, which would you rather provide them with?
If you're a breastfeeding mum and would like to find out more about how to donate, click on the UKAMB link, above. You don't need to donate much - just 30 mls can make a difference - every drop counts. If you're a parent with a baby in SCBU right now, find out as much as you can about breastfeeding and kangaroo care. I hope that you and your little one stay strong and do well.
If you're wondering about Charlie, I do hear from his mum every now and then, and know that he has some health difficulties, but it sounds like he's doing brilliantly.