A human milk bank has been opened at a Christchurch hospital in what is a New Zealand first.
After years of planning, Christchurch's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has now set up a bank of pasteurised mothers' excess milk for the benefit of other babies in the unit.
"The long term savings and health gains of this innovation to support feeding with breast milk are wide ranging," said NICU pediatrician Maggie Meeks.
"Breast milk is the milk all babies should have wherever possible but it is particularly important for babies who are unwell and the preterm babies in the NICU."
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Preterm babies are unable to breast feed immediately after birth because of their lack of a mature coordinated suck and swallowing abilities, Dr Meeks said.
"Our preterm babies have a need for optimal nutrition immediately after birth to promote brain growth equivalent to that which should have occurred in-utero, and because of this we sometimes have to supplement with formula," Dr Meeks says.
"This is understandably frustrating for many mothers and it is hoped that as the 'human milk bank' recruits donors, parents will take the opportunity to supplement with pasteurised donor milk rather than formula where possible."