Shanghai’s first breast milk bank opens
Shanghai’s first breast milk bank opens06/06/2016 at 11:45 AM
THE city’s first breast milk bank went into operation at the Children’s Hospital of Shanghai yesterday, providing free nutrition for premature and sick infants.
Healthy mothers, including expats, who have given birth within the previous six months are encouraged to apply to be volunteer donors.
Donors will have their blood tested to eliminate mothers with infectious diseases. Donated milk will be disinfected, frozen and stored for up to six months.
Basic information about the donor, the consent form, and blood test and bacteriological data will be kept on file for 30 years, the hospital said.
About 1.1 million premature infants are born in China every year, and breastfeeding promotes healthy development of the intestinal tract and can mean a significantly lower incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis and infectious diseases like sepsis. However, 85 percent mothers of premature infants in China are unable to breastfeed their children, the hospital said.
“Breast milk is the best food for babies in the first six months, particularly premature infants, whose organ functions are not developed yet,” said Gong Xiaohui, deputy director of the hospital’s neonatology department.
“However, Chinese mothers of premature babies are usually not able to feed their kids with breast milk because they are not physically prepared or sick. A breast milk bank is therefore urgently needed,” she said.
Infants suffering from diseases such as short-bowel syndrome and congenital digestive tract disease, and low birthweight babies also require breast milk instead of milk powder, the hospital said.
Because breast milk can boost growth and enhance immunity, some European countries began establishing breast milk banks for needy babies more than 100 years ago. The first appeared in Vienna in 1909.
But there are only 10 breast milk banks in China and most of them are small.
The development of the service has been hampered by a misconception among Chinese people that ingesting breast milk from a donor is not safe, a lack of government support and high operating costs, said hospital president Yu Guangjun.
Sick baby dies
The idea of founding a milk bank emerged in 2014 when the hospital treated a baby who had been suffering from diarrhea since birth. He was very skinny and did not survive past six months, Zhang Ting, director of the hospital’s digestive department, recalled.
Hospital staff concluded that the outcome may have been different if the baby had been fed breast milk. Preparation for the new bank started in late 2015.
China’s first breast milk bank was established at the Guangzhou Women and Children’s Medical Center three years ago, but there is only enough donated milk to feed about 10 percent of the premature and sick babies who need it.
The center is also struggling to cover its costs, which amount to nearly 500,000 yuan (US$80,645) per year, or nearly 2 yuan for every 1 milliliter of donated milk.
The Shanghai bank is funded by a three-year government project to help high-risk infants.
But the hospital is seeking help from charity organizations, and a fee may be charged when the program ends.
The hospital has also cooperated with a non-governmental organization with the aim of attracting more volunteer donors. The organization, which is named First Mouthful of Milk, has called on its members to donate their breast milk to the bank.
The organization can help babies who are urgently in need, but is unable to conduct strict checks and provide sterile conditions like a hospital, it said.
The bank has the capacity to store 200,000 milliliters of breast milk, and it has three separate rooms for donors.
Needy babies at the hospital and the Jiading, Jing’an and Putuo districts’ maternal and childcare service centers will be major recipients.
In a trial operation, four mothers have donated more than 4 liters of milk to the bank.
Donors will be granted certificates and enjoy preferential treatment at the hospital.
The application hotline is 18049959279 between 8am and 5pm on workdays. English service is available.