Human breast milk fulfills the nutritional needs and promotes the growth and development of infants. It protects the infants against infections till their immune systems become functional. Breast milk contains essential components, including macronutrients (proteins, lipids, carbohydrates), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), and various biologically active substances. Despite many advances and research in formula milk, human milk remains the best nutritional supplement for the baby for the initial six months of their life. However, under certain circumstances, when breast milk is unavailable to the newborn, WHO UNICEF suggests donor breast milk as the best alternative for mother's milk.
What Is a Human Milk Bank?
A human milk bank is a center where breast milk is collected, screened, tested, and stored from a healthy lactating mother. Human banks pay particular attention to providing donor milk to high-risk infants in the neonatal intensive care unit. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also recommends that human milk is an invaluable nutritional source for infants and that banked human milk is the best suitable alternative.
Where Can We Find Human Milk Banks?
The Comprehensive Lactation Management Centers (CLMCs) store breast milk and provide milk to high-risk infants in India. India has a total of 57 CLMCs in different states. Newborns suffering from high-risk neonatal infections need immediate care, including breast milk. Therefore, breast milk banks are mainly located in big hospitals providing neonatal care. However, you may also find human milk banks in non-government organizations like NGOs taking care of abandoned babies.
Who Can Donate Milk for Banking?
A human milk donation is a novel act as it could even be life-saving. Under these circumstances, a mother can donate milk,
Breast milk collection can be done by any healthy lactating mother willing to donate extra milk without compromising their baby's requirements.
Some mothers suffer from their baby loss after delivery. Such mothers can donate their milk for banking.
Who Cannot Donate Breast Milk?
A mother should be perfectly healthy for milk donation as this could be a source of infection that newborns might transmit. There are some categories where a mother cannot be a donor even if she is willing to donate milk.
A mother carrying any source of infections is not eligible for donation as it can be transmitted to the newborns through the milk.
A donor is disqualified if she has a habit of taking any drugs or alcohol.
A mother is prohibited from donating if she or her partner has had a blood transfusion history in the past six months.
If a mother is exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, she is not eligible for donation as she can transmit the infection to the newborn. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is an infectious disease that causes degeneration of the brain.
Who Can Be the Recipient of Milk Banking?
Certain conditions need special care, and milk banking could be life-saving for such individuals; these include:
Babies with neonatal infections.
Babies with metabolic disorders.
Babies with malabsorption issues.
Babies who have allergies issues.
Babies who have an intolerance to other milk formulas.
Premature babies and babies with exceptional medical care needs are most eligible for milk banking.
How Is Breast Milk Collection Done for Banking?
Human milk banking is an unrestricted donation system where the mother has to go through the following steps before donating breast milk.
The mother first underwent counseling and checked for all suitability factors.
She has to fill out a written informed consent form.
History taking and physical examination are then followed by taking a sample for laboratory tests.
After checking all the reports, a healthy mother can donate milk to the designated center with the help of trained staff.
What Are the Effects of Pasteurization on Human Breast Milk?
The process of pasteurizing human breast milk inactivates many bacterial and viral contaminants. There is only minimal nutritional value reduction as most of the dietary components remain unaltered after pasteurization. Carbohydrates, fats, and salts remain unchanged. However, it is known to denature some protein, but it does not affect fat-soluble vitamins. It is known to alter the immunological factors present in breast milk. All the beneficial immune cells get inactivated along with the inactivation of bacteria and viruses.
Is There Any Involved Cost With Human Milk Banking?
Human milk bank comes under a non-profit organization where the donor receives no money for milk donation, nor does the bank sell the milk. However, the cost is associated with collecting, pasteurization, storage, and transportation. In most cases, the hospitals associated with milk banking bear this cost.
What Are the Benefits of Breast Milk for Premature Babies?
The infants receiving human breast milk in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are likely to have fewer severe infections, lesser chances of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), and reduced colonization by pathogenic microorganisms. Some research suggests a decreased period of hospital stay for babies fed with expressed human breast milk. Most importantly, some data support an improved neurodevelopmental outcome in preterm infants fed with breast milk.
It is universally accepted by all health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) World Health Organization (WHO), that breast milk is the best nutritional supplement for infants during the first six months of their life. It fulfills all the child's essential requirements for their growth and development. It is essential to follow all medical guidelines for donation so that any source of infection could be prohibited.