Support research into donated breast milk to help premature babies

Australian Red Cross Lifeblood

Carers | Mothers

At Lifeblood, we’re here for Australia. Our life-giving role started 90 years ago with blood donations, but today, we support lives in more ways — through organ matching, tissue typing, donated breast milk and more.

Since 2018, we’ve been providing donated breast milk to some of Australia’s premature babies. But, we still have a lot to learn. That’s why we partner with clinicians and researchers across Australia to find out more about the best ways to care for these babies.

We know mum’s own milk is the best nutrition for babies, but not every baby has access to enough of it. We want to know how donated breast milk can be used to help these babies grow and thrive. We also want to know how we might help the milk we collect go further, helping us give life to more Aussies than ever before. Together, we’re Australia’s Lifeblood.

What issues are addressed?

Thousands of babies in Australia are born early every year. When they’re born particularly early, they can face some unique health challenges. Breast milk may reduce the risks of those health challenges, because it’s easier to digest than formula, protects the gut and improves feed tolerance.

The problem? Some mums can’t supply enough breast milk for their own baby (especially since their baby can’t feed directly from the breast just yet). That means some of the most vulnerable babies don’t have access to breast milk.

Lifeblood has been helping collect, test, pasteurise and distribute donated breast milk to premature babies since 2018. But, there’s still a lot to learn. We want to know more about how donated breast milk can help support babies in early life.

Alleviating suffering / disadvantage?

For many new mums, donating breast milk is a healing experience and is something that they do to not just help babies, but their families too. Donating milk is as much for the mother or parent as it is for the child.

Donors feel that they’re giving peace of mind and taking burden and guilt away if the mother or parents can’t supply enough own breast milk for their baby. It’s a way for mothers to help other mothers or parents, and feel connected to a community (especially if they don’t have a very big support network around them).

We have an exciting opportunity to look at the broader impacts beyond infant health too, like whether having donor milk available supports parents to reach their breastfeeding goals and feel more empowered when caring for their newest addition.

Changing Policy, Practices & Systems?

We’re working with clinicians, lab scientists, social scientists, and industry partners, who all bring unique perspectives and ideas to inform our research projects.

Our core research investigates how donor milk supports babies born very early or with a low birthweight. We examine the nutritional properties of donated breast milk, and develop new products to support babies who face unique health challenges.

We hope to make donated breast milk available nationally to all babies who need it.

Investing in or empowering women?

When vulnerable babies don’t have access to enough of their own mum’s milk, donated breast milk can help them meet their nutritional needs. These babies and their mothers are the reason we do what we do: offer a helping hand to those who can’t supply enough of their own milk.

Milk is really important for keeping babies healthy before their own immune systems are strong enough to do it for them.

Our research is all about continuously improving the life-giving benefits of milk for our tiniest, most vulnerable patients and their families. By developing new products that unlock the power of donated breast milk, we can improve healthcare for more premature babies in Australia than ever before. But we wanted to go further than that. We’re thrilled that this research will also help grow the global knowledge base about infant healthcare to help even more mothers and parents with vulnerable infants.

Media / Promotion?

Our multidisciplinary Milk Research team is coming together to explore the nourishing power of donated breast milk for vulnerable babies across Australia. At Lifeblood, we’re energized by the life-giving potential, but we won’t get there on our own. Your support will play a vital part.

We’re continuing to partner with governments, scientists, clinicians and industry to lead exciting initiatives. With their help, we’ll explore new products that can be made from donated breast milk, and help vulnerable babies get the nutrition they need in early life.

We’re here for all Australians, right down to the youngest and most vulnerable. That’s why we’re helping Australia’s smallest patients with donated breast milk. Stay up to date through our website and on our socials (you’ll find us @lifebloodau) to hear the latest news and developments of our journey.

How is success evaluated / measured?

Compared to full-term babies, premature babies need to stay in hospital longer, they have more difficulties feeding, and they’re more likely to be readmitted within 6 months, usually for feeding-related issues.

Lifeblood, researchers and clinicians at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) are seeking funding to support a clinical trial to evaluate if receiving donated breast milk reduces hospital stay length, readmissions, and feeding complications in over 2,000 babies around the country.

This is a world-first study that will have global relevance for unlocking and improving nutritional care for extremely premature babies. Lifeblood continues to expand, and over the next couple of years, we hope to make donated breast milk available to all vulnerable young babies who need it.

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Funding Details

Project Commences – January 1, 2021
Project Completes – December 31, 2021
Funding Required – $140,000
Currently Funded – $7,000
Approved Tax Deductability Status
Approved Tax Concession Status

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