The Human Milk Center at India's Mumbai City has been providing mother's milk to newborn babies. The Human Milk Center at the Sion Hospital caters to newborns and premature babies whose mothers do not lactate. The deprivation of breast milk, which contains a right balance of nutrients and is the most easily digestible food for babies, could lead to lower IQ levels and weaker immune systems, apart from other deficiencies.
However, the Sion Hospital milk bank, which hospital authorities claim could even be the first in Asia, fulfils this requirement. The facility is used mostly by the hospital's patients.
'There are at least 8,000 babies born here every year. In 20 to 35 percent of these cases, direct breast-feeding becomes impossible,' said Jayashree Mondkar, head of the hospital's neonatal department.
'However, this bank is only an interim support system and cannot be considered a long-term solution for the babies,' Mondkar said. The milk is collected from lactating mothers who come to the hospital, though outsiders are not barred from donating milk. The milk is stored in containers with capacities between 250 ml and 400 ml after it is pasteurized at 56 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes and subjected to microbiological tests to check the 'milk culture' or its biochemical status.
It is stored for three to six months at a temperature of minus 20 degrees in auto-glazed or sterile containers. Babies weighing less than a kilogram are fed about two cc of milk every two hours. In 2005 alone, the bank stored 895 liters of breast milk.
Non-lactation can occur due to stress during pregnancy or during delivery. It can also be caused by consumption of alcohol or smoking, and post-partum hemorrhaging. Feeding the baby also becomes difficult if the baby is born prematurely. Taking a cue from the hospital's milk bank, two other hospitals here have begun projects on similar lines.
Thousands of babies, many of them teenagers now, will be thanking the Sion Hospital milk bank for those first drops of life and health.