A mother’s milk bank just opened in Udaipur is expected to provide succour to babies who cannot be breastfed for medical reasons
A mother is very special to a child and so is mother’s milk that is essential to give vital sustenance to the offspring. But not all children, however, are fortunate enough to get mother’s milk. Either due to maternal mortality or due to medical reasons, every second child is malnourished in India.
The infant mortality rate of India is 46 per thousand. This figure can be reduced by 22per cent if there is donated mother’s milk available. This thought has been the main inspiration behind setting up of a Mother’s Milk Bank in Udaipur.
An initiative of Maa Bhagwati Vikas Sansthan, an organisation based in Udaipur, the Divya Mother’s Milk Bank has been opened at the RNT Medical College and government hospital. The first bank of its kind in north India, the bank is now functional and open to the public.
Called Divya Mother’s Milk Bank, it aims to provide screened, processed and pasteurised mother’s milk to protect, promote and support the infants and babies in need, says its founder Devendra Agrawal. “If mother’s milk is not available, then the next best option for a child is donated mother’s milk as it will increase the survival chances of the infants by six times.”
Like blood banks, mother’s milk bank will depend on donors (mothers). “We have got a very positive response from women belonging to all strata of society. It is a very sensitive issue and mothers know what miraculous properties this milk has,” says Archana Shaktawat, the coordinator of the project.
Milk bank donors can be willing lactating mothers who are nursing their own babies and have surplus milk or mothers of premature infants or mothers who are advised not to breastfeed their own child for medical reasons. Women who donate their milk are, however, not financially compensated — they donate because they know their milk can save the lives of premature and ill babies.
Donated milk is made available to children in NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) and also to those infants who have been prescribed so by the doctors, according to Dr. R.K. Agarwal, chief operating officer of Milk Bank, says.
“One in eight babies is born preterm. Fewer than half of the mothers who deliver a baby prematurely are able to breastfeed their babies. Through Mother’s Milk Bank, we can save 16 out of 100 premature infants. Optimal breastfeeding or giving infants mother’s milk under two years of age has the greatest potential impact on child survival of all preventive interventions, with the potential to prevent 1.4 million deaths in children under the age of five,” Dr. Agarwal adds.
The donated milk will also be provided to infants with life-threatening diseases or conditions. Or infants whose mothers are HIV+ and thus can’t breastfeed their children or multiple birth babies whose mothers can’t keep up with the milk required to nourish their infants.
Four other milk banks are operational in Mumbai, Pune, Surat and Kolkata.
The donated mothers’ milk is processed and pasteurised using the Holder Method of pasteurization to eliminate bacteria while retaining the majority of the milk beneficial components. Milk is frozen at (-)20°C and given in frozen state or thawed to hospitals and individual recipients.
At a time, when efforts are being made to create awareness about mother’s first milk or the colostrum as the infant’s first vaccine, the mother’s milk bank could play a vital role.