Mumbai: Human milk banks at civic-run hospitals in the city, which had dried during the Covid-19 pandemic, have experienced a 25-60% increase in donations.
According to data, three human milk banks located at the civic-run Bai Yamunabai Laxman (BYL) Nair, Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General in Sion, and Rajawadi hospitals have witnessed a surge in donations in 2022 compared to the 2020 and 2021 pandemic years.
Reasons behind rise in contributors
The rise in contributions can be attributed to lactating mothers who have donated milk to nourish newborns. Sion Hospital's three-decade-old milk bank reported a drop in donations during the pandemic but the stock was used for the needy after witnessing a 25% increase in milk donation last year, benefiting nearly 3,000 to 5,000 babies annually. “In the year 2019, 880 litres of milk was donated, which decreased to 526 litres in 2020. But in 2021 there was an increase in donation to 632 litres of milk and in 2022, 790 litres of milk was donated,” said a senior health official.
BYL Nair Hospital saw a 60% increase in donations in 2022. The milk bank, established in 2018, received 217 litres of milk initially, and last year, it rose to 275 litres of milk after a 50% drop during the pandemic.
Importance of breastmilk in newborns
Statistics reveal that approximately 3.5 million premature births occur each year in the country, accounting for 13% of all newborns. Breast milk provides disease resistance and helps protect infants from infections, providing them a better chance at survival. It is especially important for sick and premature babies, and the donated milk from other mothers can save their lives.
Challenges faced by human milk banks
During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, human milk banks faced challenges due to a decline in contributions. However, increased awareness initiatives and efforts by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) have encouraged more mothers to come forward.
Dr Vidya Thakur, Medical Superintendent of Rajawadi Hospital, highlighted the challenges the pandemic posed for milk donations but emphasised the importance of creating awareness to encourage more lactating mothers to donate.
“Our donors are divided in two segments. In the first category, we have mothers who deliver at the hospital and donate before being discharged. The other category includes the mothers who visit our OutPatient Department (OPD) with their newborns for follow-ups or vaccinations,” she said.