Premature Ukrainian war babies get donated breast milk in Poland under UN programme
(Correct spelling of surname to Dabiak in paragraphs 8-9)
By Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska
WARSAW (Reuters) - Denis Dziubanovskiy weighed only a perilous 1.5 kg when his Ukrainian refugee mother, traumatised by the war in her homeland, gave birth to him prematurely via caesarean section, leaving her unable to breastfeed him.
A UNICEF-funded milk bank in Poland set up for mothers in crisis came to the rescue of Evgeniya Loshkarova last September, giving Denis access to milk and his mother psychological support and lactation advice.
Loshkarova, who had been found unconscious by the police in her Warsaw apartment in her seventh month of pregnancy after a friend raised the alarm, said she was deeply grateful for the U.N.-backed milk bank in Poland - which has taken in hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who fled Russia's invasion.
“It is such a great help both for the baby's health, and for the psychological comfort of the mother. When a baby is born prematurely, it is always very stressful, because something has gone wrong,” she said.
With the help of UNICEF’s programme, more than 300 mothers - about 20% of them from Ukraine - benefit every month from various services in 10 hospitals hosting milk banks in Poland.
“These are women who have difficulties in the initial stage of motherhood. They are under a lot of stress, some of them have suffered war trauma," said Aleksandra Wesolowska, head of the Human Milk Bank Foundation.
"Therefore they really need lactation care and psychological support. This element of support is the most important. Milk from the bank is food, of course, but it is also the expression of female solidarity.”
Denis was probably nourished with the milk of Karolina Dabiak, 37, a former Polish health and safety worker who has donated to the milk bank since August 2022, two months after giving birth as she realised she was producing more milk than her infant son needed.
“What is the most important for me is helping the little people who come into this world in such difficult circumstances - premature babies,” Dabiak said.
Doctors in Ukraine advised Olena Liubimova, 36, to terminate her pregnancy because of uterine fibroids she had developed due to stress.
She gave birth prematurely after arriving in Poland, but Oleg came into the world "on the verge of a miscarriage ... The doctors warned us the child might not survive and Olena's life was in danger", husband Oleksandr Kyrnasivskyi said.
A milk bank in a hospital in Zielona Gora tube-fed Oleg with milk until Olena was able to breastfeed him. She has since benefited from the UNICEF programme's advanced perinatal care.
(This story has been corrected to fix the surname of “Karolina Dabiak” in paragraphs 8 and 9)
(Reporting by Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska, editing by Mark Heinrich)