In February last year, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) announced human milk banks in four hospitals – R N Cooper, Jogeshwari Trauma, Rajawadi and Kandivali Shatabdi. The concept is not new, but is a much needed one for mothers facing breast-feeding problems with newborns. A year later, none of the four has started operation.
A human milk bank essentially stores breast milk of lactating mothers and feeds babies of mothers unable to produce enough milk. Causes for lactation issues range from tension to weakness. The milk bank is a simple set-up, comprising a cold storage, breast pumps and storage bottles or packages.
The first bank in Asia was started in Mumbai’s Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital in Sion which now collects over four litres of milk from 40 new mothers every day. It saves the lives of over 3,000 newborns every year. KEM, Cama and JJ hospitals have also replicated the concept now.
With over 40,000 births taking place annually in the city and the neonatal mortality being high, the BMC had decided to start a similar facility in four other hospitals but has failed to. According to Suhasini Nagda, director of medical education and tertiary hospitals in the BMC, it is on account of delays in fund approvals and appointment of staff. “We are also planning to open a milk bank at Nair Hospital. But it will take some time,” she said.
With existing milk banks struggling to cope with hundreds of births each day, gynaecologists say the need for more milk banks is urgent. Currently, milk powder is the only option available to mothers suffering from breast-feeding problems.
“But it is human milk that carries all essential nutrients that will help in proper growth of a child,” said Armida Fernandez, doctor who started the first milk bank at Sion Hospital. She was able to significantly reduce neonatal deaths at the hospital.
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