Fortis Healthcare, one of India's largest hospital chains, launched the first pasteurised human milk bank, "Amaara", in Delhi and the National Capital Region.
The milk bank is a result of a collaboration between Fortis La Femme, a specialised hospital for women and newborns in New Delhi, and the non-profit organisation Breast Milk Foundation (BMF), an official statement said.
‘Globally, human milk banking is a common practice, in India, the progress has been slow and only 14 such banks exist.’
"The Amaara Milk Bank at Fortis La Femme is Delhi-NCR's first Milk Bank that will make available pasteurised human milk to infants hospitalised in our neonatal intensive care units as well as those admitted in other hospitals," said Bhavdeep Singh, CEO, Fortis Healthcare, in a statement.
This initiative is aimed at curbing infant mortality rate by providing pre-term babies the best food that they need for survival. "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," Singh pointed out.
"Providing human breast milk to these fragile neonates can substantially cut the risk of infection and help save their lives," Singh said. Keeping in mind the physiological inability of the mother in many cases to breastfeed, human milk banks assume great importance.
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, the statement noted. 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, pasteurised 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 statement added.
"Many mothers of vulnerable, hospitalised 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, pasteurided donor milk is recommended as an essential alternative," Raghuram Mallaiah, director, Neonatology, Fortis La Femme, pointed out.