Joys of breast milk sharing, from mum’s mouth

Publication: DNA

Date: 8th Aug, 2016

Date: Dr.Nikhil Datar, Gynecologist/Obstetrician at Cloudnine Group of Hospitals.

World Breastfeeding Week: While breast milk banks have been around for a long time, the concept is yet to gain popularity among new mothers.

Barely three days after giving birth to her daughter, Noyonika, Mumbai-based investment banker Nabonita Banerjee was informed about her bundle of joy’s congenital intestinal problem that would require surgery. The infant braved the surgery and was recovering, but stressed after the ordeal Nabonita realised that she was barely producing enough milk for her newborn. That’s when she thought of reaching out to her immediate group — family and other expectant mothers from the yoga class she attended.

“My yoga teacher connected me with Ritu, who was prompt. We discussed the logistics and soon I was picking up milk that she had expressed and stored in a container,” said Nabonita. The two mothers began coordinating their schedules to ensure that both their little ones were given breast milk. For Ritu, an entrepreneur whose son Sabyasachi is now 10-months-old, it was an instinctive decision to agree. It helped that her husband extended his full support. “It was her maternal instinct that I responded to. I put myself in the shoes of the recipient and thought what if it was my baby needed the milk and no one responded,” Ritu explained.

She would express milk after feeding her child and store it in a stainless steel container and freeze it. Nabonita would drive down to pick it up from her home. While the concept of breast milk donation is not popular in India yet, breast milk banks have been around for decades. While the Lokmanya Tilak Hospital in Sion was the first hospital to set up such a facility, breast milk banks are also present at KEM, Cama and Albless and the Sir JJ Group of Hospitals in Mumbai.

“There are blood and semen banks that are managed safely. In the same way, breast milk bank can also be handled well,” said Dr Nikhil Datar, medical director and senior gynaecologist at Cloud Nine Hospital, adding most infections are not passed through breast milk and the donor can be screened to reduce the chances of any infection to the baby.

For Nabonita though donor breast milk was a boon as it helped her daughter recover faster after the surgery. “Soon, after that I also felt better and I started producing enough milk for my baby,” Nabonita added. Ritu now wants to go a step forward is planning to create an informal group that will bring new mothers together so that they can help each other. “Many of us, mothers who want to donate milk are coming together. This would be a group where the older ones will exit and the ones who have just given birth will enter,” Ritu added.

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