On February 5, Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja will inaugurate ‘Nectar of Life’, the first human milk bank in the state, at the Ernakulam General Hospital. This is a state-of-the-art facility that has been set up to make sure that breast milk is available for newborns who are not being breastfed by their mothers, who may be sick, deceased or due to insufficient production of breast milk, in the hospital, reported The New Indian Express.
The facility has been set up with the support of the Rotary Club of Cochin Global.
“Though the concept had come to India 32 years ago, Kerala did not have a milk bank till now. This is where Rotary Club took the lead to bring the project to the state with two such breast milk banks — one in Ernakulam and the other at Jubilee Medical Mission Hospital in Thrissur,” said Madhav Chandran, former Governor of Rotary District 3201, who envisioned the project.
According to Madhav, all safety protocols have been ensured in line with the guidelines of the government, along with procedures for collecting, preserving and distributing milk. The milk can be stored up to six months in the Kerala milk bank safely.
The milk, in the beginning, will be provided free of cost to only the babies admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital. Later, however, planning will include a network of hospitals for multiple collection and safe distribution points.
While approximately 3,600 babies are born at the General Hospital a year, 600 to 1,000 sick babies are admitted to the NICU.
“This would be helpful for infants and mothers who are struggling to feed their babies due to low production of milk,” said Dr A Anita, superintendent of GH, Ernakulam.
“Providing pasteurised 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 various reasons can help reduce the risk of infections and boost their immunity,” said Dr Paul P G of Rotary Cochin Global. He added that the donors will be women who delivered babies at the hospital. All of them will have their health statistics available at the hospital.
“Mothers with excess milk will be encouraged to participate,” he said.
The milk bank was set up at a cost of Rs 35 lakh, and consists of a pasteurisation unit, refrigerators, deep freezers, hospital grade breast pumps, RO plant, sterilising equipment and computers. The project got delayed following the COVID-19 outbreak, although a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the health department and Rotary Club of Cochin Global last year for setting up the bank.
“We have also beautified the interiors of the milk bank by making it most conducive for the donor mothers,” said Aby Elias, project coordinator.’
A trained nurse staffer has been provided by the Indian Medical Association along with the Indian Association of Paediatricians for operating the milk bank at the General Hospital.