Meet the woman who donated her breast milk after suffering a stillbirth via Devon 'donor milkbank'

  • Watch Claire Manning's report

When Janet's second child was stillborn she decided to donate her breastmilk to a 'donor milkbank' in Tiverton to help other parents struggling to produce breast milk.

Healthy Babies UK, based in Tiverton collects surplus breastmilk from breastfeeding mums to help feed premature and vulnerable babies across Devon and Somerset.

Janet told ITV News West Country: "I think when your child has died, you wouldn't want anyone else to have to go through that.

"I am sat with an over supply of milk, for me it just makes sense to just take a little bit of time to donate the excess."

Healthy Babies UK is a not-for-profit community interest company that brings excess milk from one mother to another who might be struggling to produce milk for various reasons.

The Milkbank was set up around five years ago and provides around 500 litres of breastmilk per year to 12 neonatal units across Devon and Somerset.

The depot costs around £15,000 per year to run, and has no NHS funding - it is funded solely by fundraising money and grants.

How does it work?

A mother will donate excess breast milk to the company which is processed at Southmead hospital in Bristol.

They can either bring their milk to the centre or volunteer drivers, like Jo, collect the milk from the homes of mums.

It is then delivered to twelve different neonatal units across the South West and given to premature and vulnerable babies whose own mums can't provide their own breastmilk.

Odie, works at the centre and described how the milk is transferred across the region: "So this milk has just come in from a donor mum this morning.

"We've got two litres here so I take it from her make sure it's frozen and everything is checked and correct. Then it goes into the freezer ready to be pasteurised in Bristol.

"This goes up to Bristol to Southmead where they will then pasteurise the milk and it is sent back down to the South West Neonatal areas."

Louise is one of the donors. She is not only breast feeding her four month old son, but also donating extra breastmilk she's produced to help nourish vulnerable or premature babies.

She said: "I think the experience of seeing donor milk used and it taking the stress off of new parents - who have perhaps had a baby early that they weren't expecting or they have been expecting it but have not yet been able to establish their own supply being able to help in that situation - is amazing really."

The donors rarely meet the babies their milk helps to feed, but Louise says she is just happy to help, as "breast milk can be used as a medicine so if I am able to help with that then that's wonderful."

Why is breastmilk so important?

Breast milk is particularly important for premature babies, but if they are born early their mothers can struggle to produce the milk they need to fight common illnesses.

Midwife Liz Gunn explains: "It is the smallest amounts of breast milk that buffer the sickest and most vulnerable babies and sometimes that is a baby born so early that they need the smallest amounts of breast milk as oral mouth care or to help line their gut.

"We know that it will minimise the risk of necrotising enterocolitis and other illnesses that can be really life threatening for premature babies."

Healthy Babies UK says it wants to see similar services created across the country.

It relies on the support of volunteers to drive vans and, of course, donations from mothers.

The milk bank are always on the look out for new donors and volunteers, and say anyone can sign up on their website to help.