Breast milk donation during COVID-19 in Coimbatore

Five months ago, Dharani Rajesh, a home-maker from Erode was diagnosed with a hormonal imbalance. Her doctor put her on medication and advised her not to breastfeed her then three-month-old child. “It was the hardest phase of my life. I felt helpless. I knew the importance of breast milk and began looking for people who were ready to donate. I found a mother from the Coimbatore Parenting Network (CPN) Facebook page and collected a batch of milk packets from her. Later, I found another mom near my home who still donates for me,” she says.

Several mothers like Dharani depend on donated breast milk. “Each drop of breast milk donated can change the life of a child. Rich in antibodies, it strengthens the immune system and keeps infections away,” says Dr Senthilkumar P, senior neonatologist, Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital (CMCH) which has a fully functional human milk bank. He says that several babies born at the hospital are premature and need assisted feeding while their mothers recover after childbirth. “Donated breast milk is a blessing for them. It is also helpful for mothers with twins or triplets who do not produce enough milk and for those who have medical conditions that do not allow them to feed,” he says.

As it is with a lot of services, the lockdown has brought its own set of difficulties in procurement of donated breast milk. Roopa Selvanayaki, admin of the online group Amirtham, that promotes breast milk donation says, “For two years now, we are donating to CMCH’s breast milk bank. Now, it is hard for us to go and collect milk from donors.” When Amirtham shared this problem with the doctors of the hospital, Dr Senthilkumar came forward and collected 155 packets with a total of 27 litres of milk from 14 mothers of the group. Roopa spoke to doctors and they reassured her that donating breast milk during COVID 19 was safe. Once that was done, she spread the good word on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. “Recently five moms from Erode were ready with 75 packets of milk. We sought help from police officials and they collected it and dropped it off at CMCH,” explains Roopa.

Info you can use
  • Any healthy lactating mother can donate
  • The pumped milk can be stored in glass bottles, BPA free plastic bottles or milk collection bags.
  • The blood reports of donors are collected to make sure they do not carry any infectious diseases.
  • The milk is also pasteurised before it is stored in the bank

There is some confusion about the safety of donating breast milk during the lockdown and that is the reason things have not been going too smoothly for Uyirthuli, a breast milk donation initiative by CPN.“Usually we donate once in a month. But after the lockdown, we did not receive any response from our members. We realised that there is a lot of confusion around breast milk donation and did not want to push anyone,” says Aishwarya M, Coordinator of Uyirthuli.

But Dr Senthilkumar sets fears at rest when he says, “The coronavirus does not spread through breast milk. But as a precaution, it is always best for the mother to cover her face with a mask and use gloves while pumping and handling the packets.” The milk is also pasteurised to ensure safety. “The breast milk bank now has enough milk packets to last for another 10 days. We hope to receive another batch by the time this stock is over,” he says.

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Printable version | Dec 8, 2021 12:43:02 PM |

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