Human Milk bank is all about collecting, screening and distributing human milk donated by women. According to WHO, if mother is unable to breastfeed a baby, the best option is to opt for milk from a human milk bank and not formula milk. Though Human milk banking started informally almost a hundred years ago, the first human milk bank was set up in the United States in mid 1980s. India got its first human milk bank in Mumbai in 1989.
Even then many are not aware of the benefits of human milk bank or about the existence of milk bank. In India lot of social stigma is associated with donating and accepting breast milk. For many it is difficult to accept the thought of feeding their baby with someone else’s milk. This need to change, if we need to save the lives of millions of new born babies. Especially since according to the World Health Organisation, approximately 13 percent (3.5 million) of the 27 million babies born in India annually are preterm and 28 percent (7.6 million) are born with low birth weight.
What is a Human milk bank:
Human milk bank collects, screens and distributes human milk donated by women with unwell or premature babies and thus raises their chances of survival. Health experts call donated breast milk as ‘liquid gold’ as it is a boon for babies born premature, babies with birth weights less than 1,500 g or with poor health and weak immune system. It also really helps those moms who are unable to express breast milk or have more than one baby from single delivery.
How is Human milk stored for long time without it getting spoiled:
Milk collected through donation is subjected to pasteurization- process of removing bacteria and virus. This milk is then tested to make sure that it is free of any infection and is stored in deep freezer (-20°C) for upto six months. This milk is shared with preterm infants as and when needed.
Who can donate milk:
Any healthy lactating women with excess breast milk can donate their milk. One need not be into smoking and should not be on long-term medications. Also one should not have infections like HIV, Hepatitis, Syphilis, TB etc.
How can one donate milk:
Lactating mother can express the extra milk with the help of a breast pump in the comfort of their house or hospital. The expressed milk should be stored in the freezer. The collection service agent from milk bank will pick up the frozen milk and will transport it safely to the milk bank on a regular basis.
Milk banks in India:
Lokamanya Tilak Hospital, Mumbai
Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital, Pune
National Human Milk Bank at Lady Hardinge Medical College
In addition to above ones, many milk banks works within big hospitals
Donating breast milk is a great service to the mankind. It can save lives of many preterm born and newborn babies. If you are a lactating mother, surely get in touch with a milk bank.