India

Pasteurized human breast milk banks in Delhi saved many newborn babies

BeyondHeadlines News Desk

New Delhi: There is no substitute for mother’s milk. And, it is very important for a newborn baby to get mother’s milk within the first hour after birth. But, in some cases, mothers are not able to breastfeed their new born babies. In this situation, human breast milk bank helps and provides milk to new born babies. ‘Amaara’ at Fortis La Femme hospital in the capital is a pasteurized human milk bank.  Fortis La Femme a specialized hospital for women & newborns in collaboration with the Breast Milk Foundation (BMF), a non-profit organization established the first Pasteurized Human Milk Bank, ‘Amaara’ at the hospital three years back. The key objective was to save newborn babies with safe, hygienic breast milk whose mothers are unable to breastfeed. In these three years, the ‘Amaara’ milk bank has been able to help 716 babies during their NICU (neo-natal intensive care unit) stay, create a strong volunteer base of 190 donors, and pasteurize 1155 litres of milk.

India has one of the largest numbers of low birth weight babies in the world, with significant mortality and morbidity rates. According to the India Spend Report, as many as 700,000 newborns die in India each year—29 per 1,000 births—due to low birth weight and preterm deliveries. Today, there are 60-plus human milk banks in India, in both public and private hospitals. A talk was organized at the hospital to spread awareness about breastfeeding.  And global breastfeeding week was observed from August 1-7.

Fortis La Femme ‘Amaara’ milk bank has a total of 190 volunteer mothers who have donated their milk and have supported this unique initiative. The process to apply as a donor is very simple – register, get a physical check-up and a general background check. The next steps for the selected mothers are to express the milk and store it in their home refrigerators, to be collected by the milk bank staff.

According to Dr Raghuram Mallaiah, Director & HOD, Neonatology at Fortis La Femme, “Breast milk is the best nutritional food source for premature and low birth weight infants and should be available to babies deprived of their mother’s milk. WHO and UNICEF strongly recommend breast milk to reduce infant mortality.  Breast milk from own mother or a healthy donor mother is the best possible way. In certain medical situations, mothers are unable to breastfeed their newborns or unable to produce sufficient milk for their babies. In all the cases, pasteurized donor milk is the best and essential recommendation. Since 2016, we have been associated with 38 hospitals across Delhi/NCR where we are able to provide pasteurized milk to babies who are admitted in the NICU and who are critically in need of breast milk.”

Dr Anita Sharma, Lactation Consultant, Fortis La Femme said, “Mother’s milk is a baby’s birthright. The content and nutrients of mother’s milk can’t be replaced by any formula milk in the world. In cases where mothers aren’t able to breastfeed their newborns due to various reasons, milk banks such as ‘Amaara’ is a boon for them.”

A UNICEF – WHO report on Nurturing the Health and Wealth of Nations: The Investment Case For Breastfeeding[i] notes that India, along with Indonesia, China, Mexico and Nigeria, accounts for more than 236,000 child deaths every year due to inadequate breastfeeding.

Vritti Lumba, Facility Director, Fortis La Femme said, “We are providing pasteurized milk to 38 hospitals around Delhi/NCR and helping newborns get access to safe, hygienic breast milk. Although globally human milk banking is common practice, it is a fairly a nascent concept in India and is gradually picking up. We need to come together to fight infant mortality with more pasteurized milk banks.”

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