Breast milk is precious to all new mothers. They are informed about all its benefits and how it helps in the growth of a baby. It’s something that new mothers pride themselves about. So, when a lactating mom saw a post on social media about the need for urgent breast milk for a premature baby at a hospital in Tamil Nadu, she was eager to donate. She contacted the hospital and was able to donate 20ml of breast milk. The mom was thrilled when she later got a call from the hospital informing her that the baby was doing much better. This incident which happened a year ago sparked an idea in Baby Shree Karan.
Six months later, she along with her two friends Koushalya Jagadeesh and Ramyaa Sankaranarayanan started an initiative. They started conducting breast milk donation camps every Sunday. The camps were held at Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the Institute of Child Health (ICH) in Egmore. Baby Shree Karan and her two friends are lactating moms as well as donors.
They created a social media page called Mommy Talks. The page has 2,000 members who are mothers from all across Tamil Nadu. The page was created as parenting support after realizing the need for breast milk for babies. The breast milk donation camps are held at ICH on Sundays as most donors are working ladies. They are able to collect 1 liter of breast milk if 10 moms donate.
It’s disheartening to know that despite their efforts, the hospital staff faces a shortage of breast milk. Dr. C N Kamalarathnam, who is the head of Neonatology, ICH states that they need 1,500 ml of breast milk per day. However, they are only able to receive 1,200 ml per day on an average despite the generous efforts of lactating women.
He says that there is a selection criterion in place when it comes to breast milk donation. Women who have given birth recently, 3 to 6 months before donation, are generally preferred. He says this is because they would have been already screened for HIV and other infectious diseases. And any woman who is past the 6-month period will be screened again. Milk donations are collected from home as well to encourage lactating moms for donation.
More Awareness On Breast Milk Donation
M Ashok Kumar who is a college student volunteers by collecting the breast milk from the donor’s place and bringing it back to the hospital. Ashok says that he helps out whenever he can. And on occasions when he cannot, he shares it on social media so that whoever is free can volunteer and do their part. He believes more awareness should be created about breast milk donation.
Many donors benefit from the service done by volunteers like Ashok. Nisha Rajagopalan is a lactating mom and has a baby who is just 3 months old. She read about the breast milk donation camp and wanted to help. She talked to her pediatrician about donating the excess milk to the babies in need. Her doctor directed her to many government hospitals. But having a baby to look after, traveling to the hospital was not an option for Nisha. She then asked to help deliver her breast milk by collecting from her home.
An Initiative That Helps Numerous Babies
The breast milk donation drive, started by Baby Shree Karan and her friends, helps numerous babies who are unable to get mother’s milk. There could be several reasons for this. Mothers getting treated at a different hospital, mothers of babies who are not lactating, and premature or abandoned babies.
The shelf life of breast milk is 6 hours if kept at room temperature. However, it can last up to 5 days in the back of a refrigerator. If stored in a deep freezer, the optimal shelf life could be extended to 6 months (1).
Breast milk is like the elixir of life for premature and sick infants. We hope more women come forward in setting up camps and donating breast milk by taking inspiration from women like Baby Shree Karan.