Fortis La Femme, Delhi’s specialized hospital for women & newborns in collaboration with the Breast Milk Foundation (BMF), a non-profit organization within the GNS Foundation, has launched the first Pasteurized Human Milk Bank, ‘Amaara’ in Delhi-NCR on Tuesday. This non-profit center recognizes that breast milk is the best nutritional food source for infants and should be available to babies deprived of their mother’s milk.
This initiative is in line with the World Health Organizations (WHO) Millennium Development Goals to reduce the Infant Mortality rate. The WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recommend that the best feed for a baby who cannot be breastfed, is milk expressed from their own mother or from another healthy mother.
Bhavdeep Singh, CEO, Fortis Healthcare, said, “India faces its own set of unique health challenges, one of them being the high vulnerability associated with pre-term babies who are significantly under-weight. Providing human breast milk to these fragile neonates can substantially cut the risk of infection and help save their lives. Keeping in mind the physiological inability of the mother in many cases to breastfeed, human milk banks assume great importance. The Amaara Milk Bank at Fortis La Femme is Delhi-NCR’s first Milk Bank that will make available- Pasteurized Human Milk to infants hospitalized in our neonatal intensive care units as well as those admitted in other hospitals.”
Anika Parashar, COO, Fortis La Femme said, “Fortis La Femme’s ‘Amaara’ Human Milk Bank is a landmark initiative by a corporate hospital in this region. The bioactive components of donor milk are unmatched when compared to any formula milk available commercially. Keeping this in view and general concerns which are associated with complications arising from formula milk given to sick or pre-term babies, there is a strong need to establish human milk banks.”
Dedicating the centre to the public, Dr Raghuram Mallaiah, Director, Neonatology, Fortis La Femme said, “Many mothers of vulnerable, hospitalized babies are unable to breastfeed feed them. In addition, many mothers due to their own poor health or other reasons are not able to produce sufficient milk for their babies. For all of them, pasteurized donor milk is recommended as an essential alternative. The Milk Bank is a proven solution to save the lives of the most medically fragile newborns against life-threatening illnesses, serious infections and other complications related to pre-term birth.”
Dr. Ankit Srivastava, Director, BMF, said, “Both BMF and Fortis La Femme have come together in this remarkable peerless initiative to lend a hand to those high risk newborns who are unable to receive the nurturing care a mother provides. It hopes to protect these preterm babies from any further harm and suffering that formula milk poses to their delicate condition. The sole purpose of this initiative is to facilitate high quality care to the early newborns along with its noble vision to grant charity with the assistance of GNS Foundation”.
Although, globally, human milk banking is a common practice, in India, the progress has been slow and only 14 such banks exist, as per the Indian Academy of Paediatrics. Key reasons for this are lack of awareness among the public and promotion of formula milk. At the ‘Amaara’ Milk Bank at Fortis La Femme, milk once donated will be tested, pasteurized and frozen (for a period of six months) and made available to needy newborns. It is a public milk bank and, therefore, accessible to all mothers who need it.
The Breast Milk Foundation in collaboration with Fortis La Femme’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit also endeavours to spread awareness on the concept of Human Milk Banking through educational programs amongst potential donors as well as receivers. India has the highest number of low birth weight babies and Neo-natal Mortality Rate (NMR), stands at 28 per 1,000 live births as recorded in 2013. India also has one of the highest infant mortality rates amongst its neighbours (Sri Lanka 12 per 1000, China 31 per 1000, Nepal 31 per 1000) which is 40 per 1000 live births according to the Annual Report, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, GOI. Feeding these babies with donor breast milk through human milk banks can have significant impact on reducing neo-natal mortality, one of the key goals of the National Health Mission, Government of India.