Mumbai: When her son Hassan was born at 28 weeks, Saba Khan was told the baby had slim chances of survival.
“He was very weak and was rushed to the paediatric ICU. He stayed there for nearly 20 days and the doctor told me it would be nothing short of a miracle if he made it alive,” says Ms Khan.
To make matters worse, Saba was very weak and could not nurse her baby. Babies, like Hassan, who are born premature, have higher chances of recovery if they are given mother’s milk.
Luckily for Saba, Hassan started recovering quickly as he given milk from the mother’s milk bank at Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital in Mumbai. From 1.2 kg at birth, Hassan gained up to 1.8 kg within three weeks and was declared out of danger.
“The milk saved his life,” says Saba. “He is gaining weight and now that I have recovered I am able to nurse him in addition to the milk from the bank.”
Started in 1989, the milk bank at Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, popularly known as Sion Hospital, is Asia’s first and largest such bank. It gets donations from nearly 40 mothers every day and the milk benefits 3,000 babies every year.
According to doctors, breastfeeding within the first hour of birth is one of the measures to fight infant mortality.
“Mother’s milk is a complete food. It is nutritionally optimal and protects the babies from different diseases,” says Dr Jayshree Mondkar, who heads the milk bank at Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital.
Most of the banked milk is given to the babies who are either underweight or to babies who are transferred from other hospitals with jaundice.
Dr Mondkar says there are many situations when the mothers are unable to nurse their infants after birth. In such a case, the milk from the bank is the next best option.
“We have as many as 14,000 deliveries in a week and mother’s milk is only an interim measure,” she says.
Before the milk is collected from the donor mothers, their blood reports are checked for any infections. Good care is taken to ensure that milk is collected hygienically, pasteurized and stored under the correct conditions. The banked milk can be stored for six months but is typically used up in 15 days.
“We tell the donor mothers why we are using the milk and how it is vital to keep another baby alive,” says Sister Sunanda Suryavanshi, a lactation management nurse at Sion Hospital.
“Even if there is some initial hesitation, all the mothers agree to donate when they hear that,” she adds.