Lactation (production of milk in the mammary glands), is the only source by which the new born baby gets food and the nourishment it requires. In some cases, lactation does not take place is often due to different reasons such as preterm delivery, lack of glandular tissues or other unavoidable medical condition. Mothers of newborn babies who are unable to breastfeed often rely on formulas. Although formulas may imitate mother’s milk, it is not equivalent to breastmilk. Breastmilk bank is an amenity, usually attached to a hospital or a nursery, that collects, screens and stores the human milk from healthy lactating mothers. This is then provided to babies who are not biologically related to these donors and need it for survival.
Importance of Breastmilk
Breastmilk contains antibodies, proteins, fats and other important nutrients which plays a major role in ensuring healthy development of the child. Studies have shown that breastfed babies have lower risk for obesity, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, much higher immunity and stronger bones. Breastfeeding is equally favorable for the mother as it releases oxytocin, which not only reduces uterine bleeding, but also helps the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size. It also lowers any risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis.
Importance of Breastmilk Bank
Human breast milk is vital to the well-being of all babies, but for babies who are critically ill or are born prematurely, donated breast milk can make the difference by quicker recovery without long hospital stays. By donating breast milk, one can provide these infants with an important chance for survival.
India is one of the leading countries when it comes to premature births. These new born babies require special care and a mother’s milk cannot be substituted. Preterm babies lack proper nutrition and need assistance to resume their pink of health. Preemie mother’s milk contains more fats, protein, magnesium, sodium, calcium phosphorous, zinc and chloride than the normal mother’s milk designed to meet his/her needs.
Breastmilk banks provide this service for women who are not able to lactate due to medical reasons like hypoplasia (Insufficient glandular tissue), serious illness, breast reduction surgery, postpartum anxiety or depression. Breastfeeding is also not recommended for women who have HIV infection, are undergoing radiation therapy or are addicted to drugs and alcohol.
Who can Donate?
A lactating mother who is healthy, has excess milk production and is not under any specific drugs can donate milk after doctor’s consultation. The mother should have no evidence of Hepatitis, and tests negative for VDRL and HIV.
Process of Donation
Consult Your Doctor
This step is mandatory. Only if you have extra production, the doctor will allow you to go ahead with the donation. Its best to consult your doctor and then decide.
On getting clearance from the doctor, one can fill out an application form available online. This form contains necessary information related to medical history. Permission from a doctor is compulsory before you become a donor.
Testing of Breastmilk Donor
You need to undertake certain tests before you become a donor. These tests will be arranged for you at the laboratory. Here, you will be asked to create your DNA profile. This step is critical as it ensures milk safety.
Keeping Records and Labelling
On becoming a donor, the breastmilk bank will provide instructions regarding collection & storage of breastmilk to ensure the quality stays intact. With this, they will also provide you with the breast milk storage bag that you can then fill, freeze, label and pack your contribution.
Acceptance on Receiving Milk
Once you send the milk to the labs, it will be accepted only once it goes through certain tests. Once it passes the tests, it will be prepared as the vital solution for infants who are, for some reason are unable to receive their biological mother’s milk or are critically ill.
Some Interesting Facts about Breastmilk and Breastfeeding
- Exposing your newborn to more flavours during breastfeeding can make them less picky eaters once you begin introducing solids.
- Breast milk is not always white. Breast milk is not always white. It can have various colours depending on what you eat and drink
- Breastfeeding can burn up to 300-500 calories.
- The nutrition composition keeps changing week-to-week based on baby’s need.
- Human milk contains substances that promote sleep and calmness in babies.
Breast milk banks are common in developed countries as compared to developing countries like India. The first breastmilk bank in India was set up in 1989 at Lokmanya Tilak Hospital, Mumbai. In the past 30 years, India has managed to come up with 10 breastmilk banks. This is not a large number considering the infant mortality rates, but due to some social taboos and social stigmas, it is difficult to convince parents of the newborn child about its importance.