The Milk Donor App will facilitate the collection of donated breast milk by volunteer couriers to be processed at the Hearts Milk Bank (HMB), the UK’s newest milk bank.
Milk banks provide a screened source of donor milk, which is recommended by the World Health Organisation as the best alternative when maternal milk is not available for premature and sick babies.
Although national guidelines have been developed to ensure milk bank safety is paramount, hospitals in multiple regions across England and Wales currently face a postcode lottery and often ration, or do not offer, donor milk.
The HMB was founded to address current gaps in provision, as well as to drive forward a programme of research into maternal and infant health impacts of breastfeeding.
Over the last year, we have raised funding, established premises, staff, and a waiting list of potential milk donors, as well as an established network of researchers and innovators. The first donor milk will be available to hospitals by the end of May 2017.
Milk banks currently lack efficient, cost-effective processes that can recruit donors quickly and easily. The App aims to make donating breastmilk as simple and convenient for women as possible.
Ultimately, we believe that donating milk should be as widely known as donating blood, and tools such as this will bring awareness and engage a new generation of tech-savvy mothers.
The initial phase of the milk collection tool development is completely funded by the Nesta ShareLab grant, including prototype development, iteration and first phase app launch, alongside a programme of impact.
As part of the long term plan, we aim to share the app with other UK milk banks. We will also seek to extend the range of apps available to donors to streamline the milk donation process from start to finish.
By Natalie Shenker and Gillian Weaver, Co-founders Hearts Milk Bank
Image credit: Kerri Frischknecht