Karnataka

Proposal to sell breast milk draws flak

Commercial use of breast milk donated by mothers in the State-run Vani Vilas hospital has been proposed by a private company, on the ground that selling breast milk would act as form of cross-subsidy to take it to more of the needy.

If approved by the Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute, to which the hospital is attached, it would put breast milk up for sale for the first time.

The proposal is to provide breast milk, collected free from mothers, at no cost to sick and pre-term babies in the Vani Vilas hospital itself. But it would also allow the company to sell it to other needy babies across the State at Rs. 300 for 15 ml. Neolacta Lifesciences Pvt Ltd., submitted a proposal to BMCRI in May, according to which the collected milk will be transported to a “pharamaceutical grade” facility in Jigani where it will be processed and stored.

BMCRI Dean and Director P.K. Devadas confirmed the proposal. “The company has submitted a proposal seeking permission to collaborate with Vani Vilas for setting up a human breast milk bank,” he said.

Breastfeeding advocates and doctors termed the suggestion ‘commercialisation and exploitation of poor mothers.’

Asha Benekappa, director of the State-run Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health, questioned the need for commercialisation of breast milk when every woman can secrete adequate quantity to feed two babies.

“The only way a poor woman can nourish her baby is through her own breast milk. If there is a market, she may sell it and make her baby a victim of malnutrition,” she said.

Satish Tiwari, National Convenor, Human Milk Banking Association said although there are around 25 breast milk banks in the country, milk is not for sale anywhere.

“The first condition for any human milk bank to come up is that it should not be for sale... We have framed guidelines for milk banks and are collaborating with the Union Health Ministry to provide guidance to set up more banks,” he said.



‘Critical public service’

Saurabh Aggarwal, director, Neolacta Lifesciences said cross-subsidy was needed so that “the company can provide a critical public service and also meet the demand.”

Donor mothers in Vani Vilas will receive counselling and orientation about the concept.

“It is completely voluntary to donate. We will also provide the mothers nutrition support, given that they may come from lower-income strata,” he said.

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