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Deakin University is playing a vital role in the establishment of a milk bank in Geelong that will assist mothers struggling to breastfeed.
The milk bank – to be just one of two of its type in Australia - is the brain child of the Institute for Technology Research Innovation’s Professor Kevin Nicholas, a globally recognised expert in lactation in mammals.
“We’re based in Geelong, we have the expertise in lactation, we have our new medical school and the Geelong Hospital close by, so it makes good sense to develop a centre here on the campus at Waurn Ponds,” he said.
“It will be a genuine partnership with one of my colleagues, Dr Lisa Amir from Melbourne University, the Geelong Hospital, Geelong-based lactation consultants and the local community.”
According to Professor Nicholas, Geelong has one of the lowest rates of successful breastfeeding in Victoria. However, he feels the milk bank will eventually establish its reputation way beyond regional boundaries. It will also support the concept that breastfeeding is a natural process and that human milk has all the necessary nutrients required for healthy babies.
“Once we’re up and running, I can see the milk bank attracting interest from not just around Geelong but the whole State,” he said.
“Together with the milk bank we are also establishing a research centre that focuses on issues relating to breastfeeding and to better understanding how milk controls growth and development of babies.”
Dr Amir, from Melbourne University’s Key Centre for Women's Health in Society, said her research had found that in the past hospitals had collected milk from mothers, but concerns about infections had reduced that practice.
With the milk bank however, mothers would first be screened to ensure they were safe donors.
“The milk bank would again raise the profile of breastfeeding and people would think it is something important and perhaps persevere a bit longer,” Dr Amir said.
“We think babies should have human milk and, if they can’t have their mother’s milk, we should be able to provide milk for them.”