Two months ago, a breast milk bank was set up at the Institute of Child Health in Egmore

In a few days from now, Chennai will get its second breast milk bank, in a private hospital.

Two months ago, a breast milk bank was set up at the Institute of Child Health (ICH) in Egmore. Now, Vijaya Hospital is all set to launch the facility this weekend.

“Breast milk is the best a newborn can be fed. There are situations where newborns do not get breast milk. Sometimes, the mothers cannot secrete milk due to a number of reasons or babies cannot suckle due to premature birth or sickness. We are then forced to resort to formula feeds that are not ideal for babies,” said Anil Kumar, centre in-charge, department of paediatrics, Vijaya Health Centre.

It is here milk banks can help. “Lactating mothers can donate milk at the bank. The milk will be screened for organisms. If found to be free from organisms, it will be pasteurised and stored. It can be stored for six months,” said Dr. Kumar.

Other cities in the country such as Kolkata, Gujarat, Udaipur and Pune have already established milk banks, but earlier attempts to set up such facilities failed to take off in the city, sources said.

“This is the first milk bank to come up in the private sector in Chennai. There is a demand for milk banks. The milk could be given to babies admitted to the intensive care units and pre-term babies hospitalised,” said Dr. Kumar.

As per protocol, mothers willing to donate will be screened for infections. The hospital is in the process of creating awareness among mothers on the need to donate excess milk.

“We will create links with other private hospitals, both for receiving donors and providing milk to newborns. The mothers will be enrolled in a registry. We are planning to provide the milk at a nominal price,” he said.

The response for the bank at ICH has been good, said J. Kumutha, professor and head, neonatology, ICH, said. “On an average, we are collecting milk from six to eight mothers a day. This is about 800 to 1,000 ml of milk. We are getting milk from mothers coming to the hospital and from those whose babies are admitted to the newborn intensive care unit of ICH,” she said.

The safety of the milk is ensured through thorough screening, she said. “Pre-term babies, especially those weighing one to 1.2 kg, and infants of mothers who are unable to secrete adequate volume of milk are largely the beneficiaries,” she said.

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