A state-of-the-art human milk bank (HMB) titled ‘Nectar of Life’ will be inaugurated at the Ernakulam General Hospital on Friday by Health Minister KK Shailaja.
Set up with the support of the Rotary Club of Cochin Global, this is the state’s first HMB. The initiative is to ensure the availability of breast milk for those newborn babies who cannot be breastfed by their own mothers due to a variety of reasons. In a statement, Dr Paul PG of Rotary Cochin Global said that providing pasteurized breast milk from the bank to low birth-weight premature babies, infants whose mothers are unable to provide sufficient milk and babies separated from mothers due to many reasons will reduce the risk of infections and boost their immunity.
According to hospital authorities, all safety protocols and procedures for collecting, preserving and providing the breast milk to needy children will be ensured as per government guidelines. The collected milk can be stored up to 6 months safely in the bank if needed before it is given to an infant, they said. As of now, the milk will be provided free of cost to only the babies admitted in NICU of the hospital. The donors will be the mothers from the hospital who have delivered babies there and will have all their health statistics available at the hospital.
India’s first human milk bank was started at Sion Hospital, Mumbai, in 1989. Apart from Mumbai, there are several milk banks across India that have come up in the past several years. These include Divya Mother Milk Bank in Rajasthan’s Udaipur, Institute of Child Health in Chennai’s Egmore, SSKM Hospital in Kolkata, Amara Milk Bank (in collaboration with Fortis la Femme) in New Delhi and King George’s Medical University (KGMU) in Uttar Pradesh among others. According to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are over 50 HMBs in India.
The human milk bank in Kochi, which consists of pasteurization unit, refrigerators, deep freezers, hospital-grade breast pumps, RO plant, sterilizing equipment and computers, was set up costing ₹35 lakh.