Rothamsted breast milk bank receives award from Theresa May

Award winners and Hearts milk bank founders, Natalie and Gillian.

Award winners and Hearts milk bank founders, Natalie and Gillian. - Credit: Archant

The founders of a Harpenden-based human milk bank have been officially recognised by the Prime Minister.

Hearts Milk Bank, located at Rothamsted Research, is the UK’s first independent, non-profit service providing surplus breast milk to feed babies in need.

It was founded by Dr Natalie Shenker, 41, of Tavistock Avenue, St Albans and her friend Gillian Weaver, who lives in Dover.

Last week they became the latest recipients of the Points of Light award, which recognises outstanding volunteers who are make changes in their community and inspire others.

In a letter to paediatrician Natalie, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “Alongside Gillian, you have established a pioneering service that is transforming access to surplus breast milk across the UK.

“Your professional expertise and commitment to furthering research into the benefits of breastfeeding for premature babies is truly remarkable.

“You should feel incredibly proud of the invaluable support Hearts Milk Bank is providing.”

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Writing to health advisor Gillian, Mrs May said: “The Hearts Milk Bank service you founded with Natalie is having a incredibly positive impact for families and providing vital support for premature babies.

“The success of the service is a testament to your long experience managing milk banks across the UK and your dedication to improving awareness of breastfeeding.

“I wish you the very best with your continued work.”

Over 250 screened milk donors have been recruited to support the service in the past 18 months, helping to feed over 1,000 babies across the region.

Harpenden MP Bim Afolami said: “I am so pleased that the founders of the Hearts Milk Bank have been nominated for Points of Light awards.

“It is a true reflection of the dedication and commitment that Dr Natalie Shenker, Gillian Weaver and all the volunteers offer to the community. I could not be prouder to have this organisation within my constituency.”

Natalie and Gillian said: “We happily accept these awards on behalf of all the volunteers whose contributions ensure the success of the Hearts Milk Bank.

“The end result is that increasing numbers of families with poorly and premature babies, and babies with sick mothers, can receive safe, screened and specially treated donor human milk that can be so beneficial.”