We all know the importance of Human Breast Milk. It is one of the best foods for newborns as it provides optimal nutrition, reduces the risk of illnesses, and promotes normal growth and better long-term development. It is also easier to digest, and it’s full of nutrients, natural immunities, growth factors, hormones, protective antibodies, and enzymes that help for digestion. This milk is very important, especially for low-weight or preterm babies who run a higher risk of infection. But not all mothers can breastfeed or express milk to give to their babies, especially if their deliveries were unplanned caesareans or the mothers were ill.
Breast milk is life saving for premature and sick babies as their immature digestive system is prone to feeding intolerance. They are also at risk of developing a life-threatening condition known as 'necrotising enterocolitis', an intestinal disease among premature babies. Mothers of preterm babies can have trouble providing breast milk, especially in the initial days, due to a variety of reasons. In full-term infants with medical conditions such as heart disease and gastrointestinal malformations, the use of breast milk offers protection from infections and reduces feeding intolerance.
Srivastava Group’s Community Milk Bank initiative, run by Amaara Human Milk Bank is a non-profit organisation that focuses on providing donor milk to high-risk neonatal babies and new-born whose mothers have had lactation failure. This is an of its kind initiative by the Breast Milk Foundation which is a part of the Srivastava group. Under this initiative, Breast Milk Foundation (BMF) facilitates high-risk neonates admitted in the neonatal unit with Human milk. This is the first public human milk bank located in Delhi-NCR and Bangalore, which provides human milk to premature or critically ill babies in the Hospitals. It also gives preemies or growth-restricted babies a chance to live a healthy and nutrient-filled life.
In the bank, the milk is first collected from the lactating mothers who have excess milk after feeding their child and is not biologically related to the recipient baby and is first screened before donating Milk. The milk is then processed and analysed before dispatching and each of the bottles is labelled with the date of Expiry and essential nutrients in the milk. It is then provided to the hospitals whenever the need arises for the babies and that too is only by prescription of a doctor following the international guidelines and protocols.
The covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the operation of human milk banks in India. Understandably, this impact on operations of donor human milk has hampered the capability of these milk banks to provide sufficient pasteurised donor milk to neonates who need it but Amaara thrived to help all the neonates in the hospitals of Delhi and Bengaluru amid pandemic by delivering the Milk. This noble initiative by the Srivastava Group has helped and saved almost 2000 babies to date and gave them a healthy start to life by providing Breast Milk to the NICUs in Delhi-NCR and Bengaluru. With the support of around 500 mothers who have voluntarily donated Milk in Delhi and Bengaluru, Amaara has been able to collect more than 3500 litres of milk and help children in hospital critical care in both Cities.
The concept of Human milk banking is not new. The concept has been in existence for a long time, carrying the roots forward to the modern era. Even though social, political, and structural barriers still exist leading to ineffective implementation of effective human milk banking programs ensuring all infants in need receive human milk. Only a few mothers come forward and donate the milk. In India, Srivastava Group is the only organisation running the Milk Bank services in a proper channelised form, maintaining international standards on the sanitation and hygiene of the collection and delivery process.