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, the 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.
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 (IMA), Kochi unit, has joined with Neonatology Forum-Kerala to open breast milk banks in the Ernakulam District General Hospital and the Jubilee Mission Hospital in Thrissur.