Breast milk banks to ensure all infants get protective cover

Many mothers unable to lactate for various medical problems

August 21, 2019 07:39 am | Updated 07:47 am IST - KOCHI

Mother-baby bonding is essential for the mother to produce breast milk. For Maya (name changed), it was not happening as her preterm baby was under treatment for various infections.

Much later, when the baby came out of the infection, even as she grappled with the tiny size of the preterm baby, the doctors asked her to hold the baby at her bosom for the skin to skin contact and the bonding. In the meantime, breast milk of another mother and formula feeds came to rescue Maya’s infant.

Slowly, Maya finally got to hold her baby every day for a couple of hours while the baby continued in the sick new born care unit of the hospital.

By the time the baby and mother left the hospital, Maya was happy and able to feed her baby her own milk.

However, there are many mothers who are not able to produce breast milk for various medical reasons.

A breast milk bank proposed by the Neonatology Forum (NNF), Kerala, is expected to provide solutions to all such babies who required intensive care at birth or are not able to be breastfed immediately for various other reasons.

The World Health Organisation has said that breast milk is “tailor made” for human infants. If for some reason, mother is not able to feed the infant, her milk should be expressed and fed, according to WHO. The Neonatology Forum had been following this diktat and insists that the newborns are aggressively breastfed in the first hour.


This helps the baby not just with the feed, but gives protection from many infections because of its inherent property to provide immunity to the infant, said Dr. Vishnu Mohan, secretary, NNF-Kerala. Death of preterm babies is among three major causes of neonatal deaths, said Dr. Mohan.

In all the neonatal intensive care units, about one-third of the babies would be preterm.

A study by the Infant and Young Child Feeding chapter, Indian Academy of Paediatrics, says that India faces the challenge of having the highest number of low birth weight babies with 20% mortality and morbidity in various hospitals. Feeding these babies with breast milk can significantly bring down the risk of infections, it says.

Any lactating mother can donate to the bank. Such milk becomes a blessing for working mothers requiring to join work soon after their maternity leave. However, realising the importance gained for breast milk, it is now coming in commercial packages too at a high cost, said Dr. Mohan.

Cheaper option

Breast Milk Bank is thus a cheaper option for the needy, he added. The milk stored in the bank will be pasteurised and would follow the international guidelines for safety.

The Breast Milk Bank project titled Nectar of Life has got support from the Rotary International to set up the first bank in Ernakulam.

The Indian Medical Association, Kochi, has joined with NNF-Kerala to open breast milk banks in the Ernakulam District General Hospital and the Jubilee Mission Hospital, Thrissur.

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