First Pasteurized Human Milk Bank, 'Amaara' is launched in Delhi-NCR today by Fortis La Femme in collaboration with the Breast Milk Foundation.
This non-profit center recognises that breast milk is the best nutritional food source for infants and should be available to babies deprived of their mother's milk.
This initiative is in line with the World Health Organizations (WHO) Millennium Development Goals to reduce the Infant Mortality rate.
The WHO and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) recommend that the best feed for a baby who cannot be breastfed, is milk expressed from their own mother or from another healthy mother.
Bhavdeep Singh, CEO, Fortis Healthcare, said, "India faces its own set of unique health challenges, one of them being the high vulnerability associated with pre-term babies who are significantly under-weight. Providing human breast milk to these fragile neonates can substantially cut the risk of infection and help save their lives. Keeping in mind the physiological inability of the mother in many cases to breastfeed, human milk banks assume great importance.
"The Amaara Milk Bank at Fortis La Femme is Delhi-NCR's first Milk Bank that will make available- Pasteurized Human Milk to infants hospitalized in our neonatal intensive care units as well as those admitted in other hospitals," he added.
Although, globally, human milk banking is a common practice, in India, the progress has been slow and only 14 such banks exist, as per the Indian Academy of Paediatrics.
Key reasons for this are lack of awareness among the public and promotion of formula milk. At the 'Amaara' Milk Bank at Fortis La Femme, milk once donated will be tested, pasteurized and frozen (for a period of six months) and made available to needy newborns. It is a public milk bank and, therefore, accessible to all mothers who need it.
The Breast Milk Foundation in collaboration with Fortis La Femme's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit also endeavours to spread awareness on the concept of Human Milk Banking through educational programs amongst potential donors as well as receivers.
India has the highest number of low birth weight babies and Neo-natal Mortality Rate (NMR), stands at 28 per 1,000 live births as recorded in 2013. India also has one of the highest infant mortality rates amongst its neighbours (Sri Lanka 12 per 1000, China 31 per 1000, Nepal 31 per 1000) which is 40 per 1000 live births according to the Annual Report, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, GOI.
Feeding these babies with donor breast milk through human milk banks can have significant impact on reducing neo-natal mortality, one of the key goals of the National Health Mission, Government of India.