'So grateful': Donated breast milk helps save premature twin babies

Chloe and Michael Smith with their premature twins Madison and Atticus.
Chloe and Michael Smith with their premature twins Madison and Atticus. 

Chloe and Michael Smith's twin babies chose Father's Day to come into the world, which was a lovely surprise, except they were just 29 weeks.

The day had started out like any normal day for Chloe. She hadn't had any complications throughout her pregnancy, yet it didn't take long for her to work out something wasn't quite right.

Having experienced regular pains over the course of the day, the expectant parents went to the hospital to be told Chloe was in "active labour and they could see a head", so they'd soon meet their babies.

"My husband and I were both in shock - the entire thing was a blur to be honest," she tells Essential Baby.

"Once born, the very tiny babies were held up for us to see and then rushed over to the station where the doctors and nurses put breathing tubes down their throats, checked their vitals, feeding tubes etc. 

"We were not able to do skin-to-skin for obvious reasons, each baby had four nurses surrounding them in their bassinet immediately after birth doing the various tubes/checks."

Fighting for their lives, the (Australian Red Cross) Lifeblood Milk service asked the new parents if they wanted to feed their babies – Madison and Atticus - donated breast milk. The service provides safe, pasteurised and tested donor breast milk to babies when they're at their most vulnerable.

"My milk didn't come in for three or so days, and when they offered the donor breast milk option, I was so surprised - I had no idea that was even an option," Chloe said.

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"At first, the thought of our babies having someone else's breast milk was a little strange to me, but after discussing it with the nurses it was a no-brainer. 

"My husband and I are both eternally grateful that our babies had the option of having donor breast milk until my milk came in, as we really didn't want to introduce formula when they were so little and fighting for their lives."

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Having an organisation step-in and offer solutions at such a fearful and stressful time was a big relief.

"I have no issue with formula at all, but at 29 weeks they were up against so many challenges already," the Sydney-based mum said.

"It was such a relief not to have to worry or stress about what they were being fed, and to give them the best possible chance to thrive."

The twins are now just over three-months-old and doing really well.

"They were discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit after nine weeks and we've had them home with us for five weeks," she said.

"They're gaining weight, feeding well and, so far, have had no premature complications. 

"My husband and I feel like the luckiest people in the world and are so grateful for two healthy babies despite their rocky (and unexpected) start in life." 

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While Chloe is now able to breastfeed her babies, she is extremely grateful to the women who donated their breast milk and she encourages other mums to donate milk, if they can.

"Thank you, words cannot express how grateful we are for giving our babies the best possible start in life," she said

"If you're thinking about donating - please do it."

Lifeblood Milk operations manager Chris Sulfaro said breastfeeding mums are encouraged to get in touch with Lifeblood Milk to see if they're eligible to donate milk to babies in need.

"Lifeblood Milk relies on our eligible mums giving breast milk in order for us to supply the neonatal intensive care units with a safe and reliable source of donated breast milk," she said.

"Breastfeeding women interested in donating their excess breast milk can find information at www.lifeblood.com.au and follow the links to Lifeblood Milk."

The Smith family is sharing their story on the new television show Giving Life on December 21 on Channel Nine.

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