Just in: Fortis La Femme and Breast Milk Foundation launch the first pasteurised human milk bank in Delhi

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This human milk bank will benefit fragile newborns and protect them against life-threatening illnesses and complications related to preterm birth

In a development that has come as good news for mums who are unable to breastfeed, Fortis La Femme, Delhi, in collaboration with the Breast Milk Foundation (BMF), a non-profit organisation launched the first pasteurised human milk bank, ‘Amaara’ in Delhi-NCR today.

This initiative is in line with the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Millennium Development Goal to reduce the infant mortality rate. The WHO and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) recommend that the best feed for a baby who cannot be breastfed is milk expressed from their own mother or from another healthy mother.

In fact, India has the highest number of low birth weight babies and Neo-natal Mortality Rate (NMR), stands at 28 per 1,000 live births as recorded in 2013. India also has one of the highest infant mortality rates amongst its neighbours (Sri Lanka 12 per 1000, China 31 per 1000, Nepal 31 per 1000) which is 40 per 1000 live births according to the Annual Report, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, GOI.

Feeding these babies with donor breast milk through human milk banks can have significant impact on reducing neo-natal mortality, one of the key goals of the National Health Mission, Government of India.

Need for pasteurised human milk bank in India

“India faces its own set of unique health challenges, one of them being the high vulnerability associated with preterm babies who are significantly underweight. Providing human breast milk to these fragile neonates can substantially cut the risk of infection and help save their lives. Keeping in mind the physiological inability of the mother in many cases to breastfeed, human milk banks assume great importance," says Bhavdeep Singh, CEO, Fortis Healthcare, speaking exclusively to theIndusparent.

The Amaara Milk Bank will make pasteurised human milk available to infants hospitalised in Fortis' neonatal intensive care units as well as those admitted in other hospitals.

Anika Parashar, COO, Fortis La Femme adds, “The bioactive components of donor milk are unmatched when compared to any formula milk available commercially. Keeping this in view and general concerns which are associated with complications arising from formula milk given to sick or pre-term babies, there is a strong need to establish human milk banks.”

Many mothers of vulnerable, hospitalised babies are unable to breastfeed feed them. In addition, many mothers due to their own poor health or other reasons are not able to produce sufficient milk for their babies. For all of them, pasteurised donor milk is recommended as an essential alternative.

Dr Raghuram Mallaiah, director, Neonatology, Fortis La Femme, added, “The milk bank is a proven solution to save the lives of the most medically fragile newborns against life-threatening illnesses, serious infections and other complications related to pre-term birth.”

How will this milk bank function?

At the ‘Amaara’ Milk Bank at Fortis La Femme, milk once donated will be tested, pasteurised and frozen (for a period of six months) and made available to needy newborns. It is a public milk bank and, therefore, accessible to all mothers who need it.

Global human milk banking

Although, globally, human milk banking is a common practice, in India, the progress has been slow and only 14 such banks exist, as per the Indian Academy of Paediatrics. Key reasons for this are lack of awareness among the public and promotion of formula milk.

However, with initiative such as these, human breast milk can reach to those needing it the most—our children—the future of this country.

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(Image courtesy: Unfrozeninc)

Written by

Deepshikha Punj