Many mothers say they wish to meet the women who gave breast milk to their infants when they were in need and thank them
TIRUCHY: Vinaya, a 23-year-old new mother, was sick for a few days after the birth of her child. She was admitted to the hospital and took a while to recover. Her baby, born premature, was kept in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Government Hospital in Tiruchy. As she was unable to breast feed, her infant was given breast milk from the milk bank at the hospital. After her recovery, she wanted to help infants like her son and decided to donate breast milk at the same milk bank.
Many like Vinaya make it a point to give back if they are able to produce sufficient milk. The breast milk bank at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital (MGMGH) has been functioning since August 2015. It is the only human milk bank in the district.
Situated near the Special Newborn Care Unit (SNCU), the milk bank is an airy and happy space. Once a mother expresses interest in donating milk, the process is explained to her by a nurse on duty. There are two breast pumps at the bank. The nurse then helps the mother with the placement of the pump and guides her. Soothing music plays at the bank to keep the mothers in a good mood.
Once the pumping is over, the collected milk is placed in a container by the nurse. It is then agitated (pasteurized) and then a 10 ml sample is sent for bacterial culture. Once the results come back and the milk is good for use, the milk is stored in a freezer at -20 degrees Celsius. It can be stored for three months.
Pushpa Jayam, a nurse at the milk bank, says they ensure that all the children in the NICU receive breast milk only. She says that as many children are admitted here from various other hospitals, the mothers are not able to come as they continue treatment at other hospitals.
“Mostly, we need milk for babies whose mothers are in other hospitals. Mothers who are sick, on ventilators or have high pressure are not able to feed their babies. All such babies are given breast milk from the bank,” says Jayam.
Orphan babies are also most in need of the milk for a long period of time, says Jayam. Currently, there is an eight-day-old abandoned baby boy at the NICU, who is being given milk from the bank. He was found abandoned at the Chatiram Bus Stand in Tiruchy. He’s being treated at the NICU and will be there till he is fully recovered and the social welfare team finds a suitable orphanage for him, says Jayam.
The lockdowns posed a problem for milk donation too as mothers were not able to travel. However, now, the bank is getting a good supply, says Dr K Senthil Kumar, neonatologist, and in charge of the bank at MGMGH. Organisations like the Tiruchy Parenting Circle are also coordinating with mothers to donate their milk to the bank.
“We have at least 75 mothers giving breast milk per month. At least 30 babies are in need of breast milk at our hospital every month. Mothers come once a week to donate milk,” says Dr Senthil.
A total of 4,367 mothers have donated a total of 415.9 litres of milk from 2015 till now. 2,205 babies have benefited, said Dr K Vanitha, Dean of MGMGH.
One baby roughly requires about 20 ml of milk 10-12 times a day, explains Jayam.
“Each mother who comes expresses anywhere between 20 ml to 200 ml. We give babies about 200 ml in a day,” says Jayam.
Many mothers say they wish to meet the women who gave breast milk to their infants when they were in need and thank them.
“I am so thankful to the mother who contributed to the health and well-being of my child. I definitely want to thank her face to face. I am in a better position now, health-wise, and hence make it a point to donate milk whenever I can,” says Mohana.