If you asked me a word synonym to motherhood – I would promptly say breastfeeding. The warmth, love, connect, and serenity I feel when I breastfeed is incomparable. According to WHO guidelines, a baby needs only breastmilk up till the age of six months. She begins to eat solids after six months of age, but breastmilk remains the main source of nutrition. Formula can substitute breastmilk in infant, but there sure is a reason why breastmilk is called the ‘liquid gold’.
Did you know that about 50,000 babies take birth in India per day? Breast milk is nothing but the nutrition that the baby will derive from the mother from day 1. Doctors advise that a newborn should be fed only breast milk. There are several reasons for that and they are:
• Breast milk provides the first immunity to the baby. The milk contains antibodies and immunoglobins.
• The milk provides nutrition to the growing needs for the baby.
• The difference between cow’s milk and breast milk is that the latter has a larger proportion of whey than casein. Whey is an essential protein required for the baby’s growth.
• Other form of food will contain the outside water and ingredients that can harm the developing digestive system of the baby. Breast milk will ensure that there is a proper gut development
• Breast feeding is a lifesaving activity for new born.
However, unfortunate events at times deprive the new born of breast milk. In certain situations a mother is not able to breastfeed, and human breastmilk banks become the saviours.
In such cases, NICU’s will step in to protect the new born. Lack of breastmilk can be fatal for a preterm baby. Same as money bank or blood bank, there exists breast milk banks.
What is breast milk banking and how does it work?
Breastmilk banks are organisations that collect, screen, process and store human breastmilk donated by healthy nursing mothers. Breastmilk banks dispense the stored breastmilk on prescription for infants, who are not biologically related to the donating mother.
Breastmilk Banks follow a thorough process for collection and storage of breastmilk. Since the stored milk is often provided for fragile pre term babies, it undergoes screening and mandatory checks before storage.
The breastmilk is pasteurised to get rid of any bacteria that the donated milk may contain. It is then frozen at -20 degree.
Who can donate breastmilk?
A lactating mother who is not under specific medication, who test negative for HIV and shows no evidence of hepatitis can donate her breastmilk. Breastmilk banks ask the donating mother to undergo a few tests before they donate their milk.
How to donate breastmilk?
You can either express milk at home using a breastpump or by hand expression, store it in a sterile container and hand it over at the center. Or you can visit a breast milk bank and request a collection there itself.
These organizations supply the “liquid gold (breast milk)” to the needy. The maximum requirement is from the pre-mature babies as their weak bodies will not be able to sustain for long.
A few of the nobel firms are:
- Amara by Fortis: Amara is one such operating at Delhi NCR supported by Fortis hospital. Various hospital send their request for milk and the same request upon review is approved. And, the requested amount of milk is transported to the hospital. However, this organization suffers a lack of donors as the demand is increasing day by day.
- Divya Mother Dairy bank: Divya Mother Dairy bank, located in Rajasthan is a popular breastmilk bank in a India.This NGO has been in action since 2013. Until now they have received donations from about 600 women. All together they have a capacity to feed 400 babies.
- Lokamanya Tilak Hospital (Sion Hospital), Sion, Mumbai
- Cama Hospital, Fort, Mumbai
- KEM Hospital, Parel, Mumbai
- Sir JJ Group of Hospitals, Byculla, Mumbai
- Dheenanath Mangeshkar Hospital and Research Centre, Pune
- SSKM Hospital, Kolkata
- Institute of Child Health, Egmore, Chennai
- Vijaya Hospital, Chennai
Milk for every baby
Slow and steady, this initiative is taking pace and many such NGO’s are coming up in the country. However, a lot needs to be done in this front.
There are 27 million babies born annually in the country. Among them 13%, that is 3.6 million, are preterm, and 28%, that is 7.6 million, are born with low birth weight which increases the risk of dying in the neonatal period,”
A major bottleneck is the low number of donors. If this bottleneck is cleared, then the number of infant death rate in the country may come down.
I would express and store milk for my baby. But being a stay at home mom, since my breasts were always ‘available’, I once poured the milk down the drain. My maid who saw me, said she fed her neighbours son who was almost her daughters age, because his mother was able to breastfeed. I was taken aback. It’s time we overcome the taboo associated with breastfeeding and normalise the act of nursing in public, sharing breastmilk and donating it.
We mothers can save lives, we are blessed, it’s time we share our blessings.