“Normally the cold room is full”, comments Delphine Mireau, pediatrician and head of the lactariums of the Bordeaux and Marmande CHUs, by opening the door to its meager stock of donations, awaiting treatment. The lactariums collecting donations from nursing women then pasteurize and condition the milk before reselling it to neonatal services throughout France. The price is set by a ministerial decree at 80 euros per liter of frozen milk and 150 euros when it is freeze-dried (mainly for overseas departments and territories). An amount that may seem high but is explained by the many selection criteria and the processes necessary to eliminate germs.
“At 99%, it is intended for premature babies but can also receive infants with cardiac or digestive pathologies”, the pediatrician specifies. It should be understood that no food other than breast milk can be given to premature babies weighing less than 1.5 kg. And, for different reasons (baby too small to suck, insufficient lactation, etc.) The Marmande lactarium, which collects up to 16,000 liters of milk in the best years throughout the great South West, saw its reserves drop dangerously and launched a appeal for donations since November 25 from breastfeeding women.
Comment to give?
“Donors must have enough milk for their babies, but it is not necessary to have a lot of milk,” points out Delphine Lamireau. To donate, you must not have been transfused, transplanted or undergoing dialysis. The data should not be smoky and it is essential that they have a freezer. The minimum donation quantity is 400 ml, i.e. two 200 ml bottles. Some 19 collectors crisscross New Aquitaine, a large part of Occitania and Normandy, to reach the homes of the volunteers. The first meeting is the opportunity to take stock of breastfeeding in progress, to complete a medical questionnaire and to collect a prescription for a blood price, if the donation is well considered. Sterile bottles are provided for freezing milk.
Nadine Fransquin, childcare assistant and nursing assistant is a collector in Gironde and spends a lot of time in her car. She collects 15 to 20 liters per week, in a cooler which indicates the temperature and which is geolocated. “I help them if they have a problem with their breastfeeding,” she says. The role of the lactarium is to support all nursing mothers, donors or not. The idea is to meet the needs of premature babies but also to ensure that donor babies continue to be well breastfed at home.
How are donations treated?
The lactarium has been established in Marmande since the 1950s. Previously managed by the Red Cross, it has been dependent on the Bordeaux University Hospital since 2011. “It’s like a factory,” describes Dr Delphine Lamireau. The milk arrives raw frozen before being pasteurized and 25% of the volumes will be freeze-dried. »All other whey pasteurize and freeze the precious liquid, which can be kept for six months in the freezer. In addition to that, that of Marmande has the particularity of practicing freeze-drying.
“Doctor Raymond Fourcade (who gave his name to the lactarium) had the brilliant idea of freeze-drying milk as it freeze-dried blood at the time,” says Dr Delphine Lamireau. Its conservation is then extended to 18 months and will not require freezing or temperature monitoring. The process is carried out in a sterile environment to ensure the sanitary quality of this product derived from the human body, and therefore highly regulated. The Marmande lactarium will move at the end of 2023 to Pessac, in the Bordeaux metropolis.
Whether they wish to donate a few weeks or several months, all voluntary breastfeeding mothers are welcome. “In recent weeks, activity has been stagnant and we know that around Christmas, mothers are with their families and draw less milk,” points out Nadine Fransquin. Fortunately, some are loyal donors and others show exceptional production. And the case of a donor who collected generously, giving 213 liters over eight months, while breastfeeding her twins …
Donating milk saves lives