Magen David Adom prepares to establish Mother's Milk Bank

Association for Mother’s Milk Donation and MDA to begin operating first National Mother's Milk Bank in Israel for Premature and Sick Babies.

Mordechai Sones,

Breast milk storage
Breast milk storage

In April of 2018 the first national Mother's Milk Bank is set to open in Israel. The service will be established by Magen David Adom in collaboration with the Association for Mother’s Milk Donation. The organization will allow nursing women to donate excess mother's milk to babies whose mothers are not available or able to nurse. The Bank will be established in the MDA Jerusalem station, and the facility's operation will be funded mostly by MDA and partially by the Health Ministry.

Mother's milk offers many benefits, including providing antibodies that defend babies against diseases and enable immune development, a process of utmost importance among premature and sick babies. Baby food formulas and substitutes do not offer the same advantages.

Breast milk, similar to blood units, is a human secretion containing stem cells and white blood cells – an irreplaceable composition. Research conducted in the field by Dr. Sharon Bransburg Zabary has affirmed this unique benefit. Bransburg Zabary is a member of the establishing committee of the Association of Mother’s Milk Donation and was one of the activists who spearheaded this initiative to which MDA and relevant government offices enlisted.

According to medical statistics, only 30% of women nurse without using any substitutes or formula, and could act as potential donors to the Mother's Milk Bank. The average donation volume ranges from 100-200 cc per day during a time period ranging from 3-9 months post-partum. The expected demand for mother's milk is estimated to be hundreds of liters a month.

Potential donors include healthy nursing mothers with excess milk who fulfill Health Ministry requirements, live a healthy lifestyle and can provide a donation without hindering their ability to nurse their own babies. There are two types of milk:

  • Milk for premature babies from a mother who gave birth between the 34th week, and through six weeks postpartum.
  • Milk from a mother who gave birth on her planned due date.

The donation process ensures milk quality. Women who nurse and are interested in donating should approach the Mother's Milk Bank and will be invited for a medical interview, as well as undergo a set of tests to ensure safety and quality of the milk. Women who are found to be healthy and eligible will pump excess milk using a personal pump authorized according to global standards. They may do so either at home or at a hospital. The milk will be kept in a special bag at a cold temperature until it is collected by MDA. The donor will state the volume of each donation as appears on the pump, her name, date, and whether or not anything unusual occurred during pumping. MDA will then coordinate a convenient time to collect the donation.

Dr. Asher Moser, Deputy Director of MDA Blood Services and Expert in Pediatric Hemato-Oncology said: “As part of the process, the units will be stored in the Milk Bank, and will undergo additional tests for monitoring and elimination of infectious diseases, nutritional analysis, processing, rapid freezing, etc. Units will be stored at a temperature of minus-20 degrees Celsius and will be transferred to babies in need. According to Health Ministry policy, the milk will be distributed according to medical prioritization – firstly, to premature babies or other hospitalized babies. If there are any leftovers, they will be distributed to any babies in need.”

VP Director of MDA Blood Services, Professor Eilat Shinar said: “Establishing the National Mother's Milk Bank will significantly enhance the resources required to treat premature babies and other newborns. This blessed collaboration between MDA, the Association for Mother’s Milk Donation, and the Health Ministry enables unification of the experienced knowledge of each one of the bodies leading up to the establishment of this important project, to a single goal: Increasing the chances of survival and health of premature babies and newborns in Israel.”

The new Mother's Milk Bank at MDA will be managed by Dr. Sharon Bransburg Zabary, a member of the establishing committee of the “Association for Mother’s Milk Donation”, established in 2015. She stated: “It is a natural connection to establish a project like this with the organization that operates the blood services of the State and is skilled at the required procedures.”

Dr. Bransburg Zabari emphasized that in cases of premature and sick babies who suffer from a premature immune system, the requirement for mother's milk is a matter of life or death. “The immune system of a premature baby isn’t developed and is vulnerable. Only breast milk provides all vital components – as opposed to substitute formulas that are costly and could hurt the intestine and cause severe infections in premature babies.” It should also be noted that one of the risks of the current situation is that mothers of premature babies go through extreme lengths to acquire mother's milk, including doing so privately and without necessary medical inspection.”

MDA Director General, Eli Bin said: “To this day, the need for a national mother's milk bank has been widely talked about in Israel and I am happy that the Health Ministry approached MDA to establish the first of a kind bank that would provide this milk in high quality and safety. We operate in order to ensure the safety and needs of all civilians of Israel with an emphasis on saving the lives of babies requiring mother's milk. I commend this new initiative and would like to thank everyone involved. I am proud that MDA, an organization that is based on donations and isn’t funded by the government, is able to establish projects to the benefit and welfare of all residents of Israel.”