Kerala’s first Human Milk Bank (HMB), was inaugurated at the Ernakulam general hospital on February 5 by health minister KK Shailaja. Set up with the support of the Rotary Club of Cochin Global, the milk bank is to ensure breast milk for newborn babies, who are not being breastfed by their own mothers who may be sick, deceased or due to insufficient production of breast milk, in the hospital.
Although approximately 3,600 babies are born in the general hospital a year, 600 to 1,000 sick babies are admitted into the NICU.
“Providing the low birth-weight premature babies, infants whose mothers are unable to provide sufficient milk and babies separated from mothers due to many reasons, with the pasteurized breast milk from the bank will reduce the risk of infections and boost their immunity,” said Dr Paul P G of Rotary Cochin Global.
Though the concept had come to India 32 years back, Kerala did not have a milk bank till now.
Madhav Chandran, former governor of Rotary District 3201 who envisioned the project said all safety protocols and procedures for collecting, preserving and distributing milk have been ensured in line with the guidelines of the government. The milk can be safely stored up to six months safely in the bank. In the beginning, the milk will be provided free of cost to only the babies admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital. Later, a network of hospitals for multiple collections and safe distribution points will be planned.
The human milk bank consists of a pasteurization unit, refrigerators, deep freezers, RO plant, sterilizing equipment and computers. It was set up at a cost of ₹35 lakh. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the state health department and Rotary Club of Cochin Global last year for setting up the bank.
“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 general hospital, Ernakulam.