COIMBATORE: Human milk banks will be opened in five government medical colleges in the State on August 1 and their deans have been asked to make necessary arrangements by July 31, official sources said.
The five selected are the Coimbatore, Tiruchy, Salem, Theni and Madurai medical colleges. If the response from the public is good, they will be opened in other government medical colleges also.
The scheme is part of the government’s efforts to reduce the infant mortality rate in Tamil Nadu.
The banks are expected to benefit abandoned infants, underweight babies, infants who have lost their mothers, women unable to breastfeed their babies due to physical or mental problems, etc.
Each bank will be in a 1,250-sq-ft area near paediatric ward, with facilities for donation of breast milk, preservation, distribution and feeding. The banks will have a refrigerator of capacity 190 litres each, to preserve the milk at the optimum temperature. The milk will be brought to room temperature before it is distributed. Depending on the requirement, it will be given in 100-ml and 250-ml bottles.
Women willing to donate milk will have enough privacy in the bank. The milk will be sucked out from the breast using a sucking bulb, the sources said.
The idea of breast milk banks was suggested to the government by the Paediatric Association. It is a need of the times, say health experts.
“It is a wonderful project. Breast milk is essential for all infants. It gives them better health and immunity with its high content of antibiotics, protein and minerals. However, there are many children who are unable to to drink breast milk due to various reasons. Such banks will be a blessing for them,” said Dr Sulekha Sundaram, a gynaecologist.
However, the major concern is that how many women would come forward to donate breast milk and how many mothers would allow their babies to drink someone else’s breast milk.
“There won’t be many coming forward to donate breast milk. Mothers who cannot breastfeed their babies are likely to choose cow’s milk or infant formula rather than breast milk from someone else. Such attitudes would have to change to make this project a success,” she added.
The government is planning to an awareness programme to change such attitudes.
“A massive education drive will be conducted to make people aware of the banks. We will encourage volunteers to donate breast milk. Mothers who are hesitant use milk from the bank will be educated about its benefits. In any case, abandoned infants and babies whose mothers have died will definitely benefit,” said an official from the Public Health Department.