BENGALURU: In the past decade, Karnataka has witnessed a 4.4% drop in children under the age of six months who are exclusively breastfed. According to the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS) 2015-16, 54.2%, children younger than six months are breastfed exclusively, which was 58.6% in 2005-06. In rural areas, it is 47% and urban areas it is 58.1%. This is lesser than the national average of 55%.
There isn’t a single government-run breast milk bank in the state save one private bank in the city. The government-run Vani Vilas Hospital sees 15,600 births annually and its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit houses nearly 100 sick babies. A lot of them require breast milk for various biological reasons.
Dr Geetha Shivamurthy, medical superintendent, Vani Vilas Hospital, said, “We have to call for tenders shortly to procure the instruments for pasteurisation. The bank will be run by the hospital.”
“Although most people are aware that breastfeeding is beneficial for term babies, many don’t know that breast milk is even more important for pre-term and low birth weight babies, as it helps save their lives,” says Dr Raghuram Mallaiah, Director, Neonatology, Fortis La Femme, and founder of Amaara Human Milk Bank. The bank has been supplying milk for babies in the city, both in the private and government hospitals, for ten months now.
Milk banks can help when mothers’ milk is not available. Early initiation of breastfeeding can prevent deaths caused due to diarrhoea and pneumonia. Pasteurised mother’s milk can be stored in a freezer for up to six months at -20 degrees Celsius, and at room temperature, it can be kept for three hours. Donor milk is screened for infections.
Breastfeeding helps the baby’s physical and intellectual development, protects mother’s health by helping early involution of the uterus, reduces postpartum bleeding, and thereby prevents anaemia, along with many other ailments.