Kerala’s first Human Milk Bank, ‘Nectar of Life’, will be opened at Ernakulam General Hospital on Friday. Health Minister K.K. Shylaja will inaugurate the facility at a function at the the hospital at 3 p.m. It’s being set up with the support of the Rotary Club of Cochin Global. The facility is set up with an aim to ensure breast milk for newborn babies who are not being breastfed by their own mothers who may be sick, deceased or due to insufficient production of breast milk. “Though the concept had come to India 32 years ago, Kerala did not have a milk bank till now. This is where Rotary took the lead to bring the project to the State with two breast milk banks — one at Ernakulam and the other at Jubilee Medical Mission Hospital in Thrissur,” stated Madhav Chandran, past Governor of Rotary District 3201.
He added that all safety protocols and procedures for collecting, preserving and distributing milk are ensured strictly as per guidelines of the government. The collected milk can be stored up to six months safely in the bank, if needed, before it is given to an infant.
In the beginning, milk will be provided free of cost to only the babies admitted in the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital. Later on, a network of hospitals for multiple collection and safe distribution points will be planned. Although approximately 3,600 babies are born in the General Hospital a year, 600 to 1,000 sick babies are admitted into the NICU.
“Providing the low birth-weight premature babies, infants whose mothers are unable to provide sufficient milk and babies separated from mothers due to many reasons with the pasteurised breast milk from the bank will reduce the risk of infections and boost their immunity,” said Dr. Paul P.G. of Rotary Cochin Global. He added that the donors will be the mothers from the hospital who have delivered babies there and will have all their health statistics available at the hospital. “The mothers with excess milk will be encouraged to participate in the noble cause to save life of other newborn babies.” he said.
The human milk bank, which consists of pasteurisation unit, refrigerators, deep freezers, hospital grade breast pumps, RO plant, sterilising equipment and computers, was set up at a cost of ₹35 lakh.