Northeast’s first human milk bank opens in Guwahati
The first human milk bank in the northeast was opened in Guwahati, Assam, on Wednesday.
Opened in Satribari Christian Hospital (SCH), the bank, which is the 15th such unit in India, will be able to store human milk for up to six years.
“Breast milk is the best food for newborn babies. To bring down cases of neonatal mortality and mortality below 5 years of age, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, starting within the first hour of birth is recommended,” said Dr Devajit Sarma, paediatric and neonatal care specialist at SCH.
“In India, there are many cases of newborns not getting enough milk in the first few days as the mother could be sick, have some infectious disease or not produce enough milk. The human milk bank will be the best option for such babies,” he added.
In India, the practice of wet-nursing (breastfeeding by someone in the family or an acquaintance) exists. But doctors say such practice has drawbacks, for instance, the breastfeeding woman may have some infection that could then be transmitted to the baby.
“The best option for babies in such case is pasteurised donor milk, stored in a milk bank. In the milk bank, we will collect milk from lactating women who are willing to donate. It will then be pasteurised and stored in deep freeze. The milk can be stored from 6 months to 6 years,” said Dr Sarma.
“We have over 100 deliveries in our hospital per month and can collect milk from some of those mothers. We will also encourage other lactating mothers to donate to the bank. In coming days, we might even include some incentives for the donors,” he added.