Kolkata’s SSKM hospital to open breast milk bank

August 2nd, 2010 - 1:34 pm ICT by IANS  

By Pradipta Tapadar
Kolkata, Aug 2 (IANS) Kolkata’s state-run SSKM hospital, one of the elite healthcare centres in West Bengal, is all set to have a breast milk bank - the first of its kind in eastern India and only the second in the country.

The breast milk bank will not only be used to feed babies whose mothers fall ill during the six-month lactating period after delivery but also come as a big relief to mothers who do not lactate.

It will also be a boon to the premature newborns, said Arun Singh, head of the neo-natology department. Neo-natology is a branch of paediatrics dealing with the medical care of the newborns, particularly those who are ill and require special care.

“Human milk is meant for humans and it is unparalleled. This breast milk bank will help several sick newborns, premature infants and those infants whose mothers cannot produce milk,” Arun Singh, the man behind this innovative initiative, told IANS.

The first and only other breast milk bank in India was set up in Maharashtra. In contrast, the idea of a milk bank is quite popular in countries such as Britain, the US and Sweden.

The bank will take milk from mothers who have more milk left even after feeding their babies.

“We are going to start the milk bank within a few months. The extra milk which is left after feeding milk to the newborns will be stored with the full consent of the mothers,” said Debashis Bhattacharjee, superintendent of the 240-year-old Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial (SSKM) Hospital.

The hospital is planning to organise breast milk donation camps just like blood donation camps where they will invite mothers to donate milk, said Singh.

Human milk is the primary and only source of nutrition for newborns before they are able to eat and digest other foods.

“There is no alternative to mothers’ milk. Sometimes a mother gives birth to a premature baby who is unable to suckle. At that time the mother can store her milk in the milk bank, and when the baby gets well that milk can be given to the baby,” said Singh.

The milk bank will also be an option for those mothers who have adopted children, possess insufficient milk glands, have a history of past breast surgery or cancer.

A separate wing is being constructed for the breast milk bank in the hospital, built by the British in 1770 to treat mainly their brethren.

Famous poet Michael Madhusudan Dutt, who had converted to Christianity, was the first native Indian to be admitted and treated at the SSKM, then called the Presidency General Hospital.

The hospital’s doors were thrown open to all after India attained independence in 1947.

The new wing will have several wards such as a pumping room, a milk analysis room, a microbiological test room, a milk storage room, and a milk quality control room.

“The breast milk will be stored after meticulous testing of both the milk and the donor. It will then be preserved in such a way that all its nutrients remain intact and it is free of germs,” said Singh.

It will also have a room where blood testing of donors will be done, to find out if the person donating milk is suffering from any kind of disease.

The breast milk bank will have two sections - one dealing with raw breast milk and the other dealing with pasteurized breast milk.

Although in foreign countries breast milk can be stored in a milk bank for years with the help of advanced technology, in SSKM it can be kept for six months only.

(Pradipta Tapadar can be contacted at pradipta.t@ians.in)

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