A human milk bank, or breast milk bank is a service which collects, screens, processes, and dispenses by prescription human milk donated by nursing mothers who are not biologically related to the recipient infant. The optimum nutrition for newborn infants is breastfeeding, if possible, for the first year.
Human milk banks offer a solution to the mothers that cannot supply their own breast milk to their child, for reasons such as a baby being at risk of getting diseases and infections from a mother with certain diseases, or when a child has a condition such as necrotizing enterocolitis.
Mothers' Milk Bank (MMB) says, this service provides mothers with an alternative to infant formula and allows the mother to give their newborn the nutrition it needs for healthy growth.
Process of collection and storage:
Mothers are instructed in recommended techniques for expressing and storing milk for donation, including good hand-washing, using clean containers and labeling the bottles with the date collected. Milk is thawed and pooled among multiple donors into glass flasks.
It is then poured into two or four ounce sterilized glass bottles in preparation for pasteurization. The milk is heat-treated by placing the bottles into a water bath with a temperature minimum of 62.5°C for 30minutes, killing bacteria and viruses but preserving the other biologically active immune factors and hormones present in human milk.
pasteurization a bacterial culture is taken to ensure sterilization and the milk is analyzed for fat, protein, carbohydrate and lactose content using a Milkoscope. Caloric content is calculated for each batch.
The pasteurized milk is cooled, labeled and placed in -20°C freezers where it can be stored for a year from the date that it was expressed from the donor mother. Human milk is available in several formulations including term milk, early term milk (colostrum, 7-10 days postpartum), preterm, non-fat (0-0.3% fat for treatment of infants with chylothorax), nondairy and several caloric densities from 20 to 24 kcal/oz. It is dispensed according to medical need by physician prescription to any location.
Donor human milk banks play an important role in providing this ideal nourishment, especially for high-risk and premature infants.
Advantage of Human Milk
Safeguard from obesity :
- Breastfed children have the likelihood of being leaner in adolescence and never run the risk of being overweight in their adulthood. Breastfed babies put necessary balances and checks on the amount of milk they consume assisted duly by variation in fat level during feeding session. They start paying heed to body signals regarding the right quantity to eat from the very early phase of life and this lead to development of healthy eating habits in later phase.
Better teeth :
- Babies fed on human milk possess better jaw alignment and can do without any orthodontic work in their adulthood. The sucking action required to draw the milk involves complex motions of the tongue and facial muscles. This plays a vital role in proper development and framing of facial muscles and palate shape.
- A proper jaw is indicative of less snoring and less chances of developing obstructive sleep apnea, which blocks the flow of air during sleep. The sleep pattern is consequently not disturbed and the risk of developing any health problems is eliminated.
Lowering risk of heart ailments :
- Feeding on human milk makes infant less vulnerable to the risk of strokes and heart attacks in their adulthood. This can be partly attributed to higher cholesterol levels in human milk which teaches the liver to better metabolize cholesterol content throughout the life. Babies not fed on human milk may have higher probability of developing arterosclerotic plaques.
Reduced risk of juvenile diabetes :
- Human milk makes child less susceptible to contracting type 1 diabetes mellitus. The held up introduction to cow milk in human milk fed babies is major contributor to this. Breastfed babies see lesser insulin release which comes in handy if the infant has a family history of diabetes.
Lessened risk of multiple sclerosis :
- Myelin breakdown can lead to degenerative muscle disease called Multiple sclerosis in adults. Breast milk enhances formation of adequate amount of myelin which safeguards the body from running the risk of getting struck by this disease in later childhood.
Lesser risk of developing asthma and allergy :
- Human milk contains immune components that safeguard babies from any allergen attacks in the early stages of life. Human milk continuation delays the exposure of babies to diet containing potentially allergenic foods like soy protein and cow milk until the immune system gets sufficiently strong and mature. This results in suppressing up of any allergic symptoms from surfacing in breastfed babies.
Prevents other diseases :
- Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis sort of digestive diseases along with chances of developing childhood cancers are kept at bay in breastfed babies.
A woman would not be a suitable donor if she:
- uses illegal drugs
- smokes or uses tobacco products
- has received a blood transfusion or blood products (except Rhogam) in the last 4 months
- has received an organ or tissue transplant in the last 12 months
- regularly has more than 2 ounces of alcohol per day
- has a positive blood test result for HIV, HTLV, hepatitis B or C, or syphilis
- or her sexual partner is at risk for HIV
- has been in Europe for more than 5 years (1980-present)
Donated milk is heat processed (pasteurized) to remove potentially harmful bacteria and viruses
Breast Milk Bank across India
Though India set up it's first milk bank 27 years ago, there hasn't been enough done to meet the spiralling demand in our country. Among the various challenges plaguing the Indian society, the biggest is the social stigma and the taboo associated with donating breastmilk. The concept of feeding the newborn with somebody else's milk is difficult to accept for some parts of the society and the hard truth remains that a section of the newborns do not get the benefit of these milk banks. Also societal pressures can put a limitation on the donor, even if they are willing to donate. Milk banks not only cater to the need of children who are born premature, but also instances where they are orphaned, with feeding intolerance, surgical complications, twins/triplets, insufficient supply from mother, etc.
Human Milk Banks in India:
- Amara Milk Bank (In collaboration with Fortis la Femme), Greater Kailash, New Delhi
- Lokamanya Tilak Hospital (Sion Hospital), Sion, Mumbai
- Cama Hospital, Fort, Mumbai
- KEM Hospital, Parel, Mumbai
- Sir JJ Group of Hospitals, Byculla, Mumbai
- Divya Mother Milk Bank, Udaipur, Rajasthan
- Dheenanath Mangeshkar Hospital and Research Centre, Pune
- SSKM Hospital, Kolkata
- Institute of Child Health, Egmore, Chennai
- Vijaya Hospital, Chennai