Thirsty Babies

City Health State

Despite the increase in birth every year, Bangalore does not yet have a government human milk bank.

By Lanka Samanth

Bangalore, Feb. 5, 2019.

Begum is holding a baby in her pouch-like folded hands. She is waiting in queue for her turn outside the outpatient department (OPD) at Vani Vilas children hospital. A female gynaecologist recognised her, as she was her frequent patient. The doctor asked Begum to come first because she looked dehydrated and teary-eyed.

The 23-days old baby, who needs maternal breast milk is not her son. She adopted the baby from Vani Vilas hospital when she came along with her pregnant sister for delivery. The baby was abandoned by her sister, who previously gave birth to five. Begum’s sister left the hospital, and her status is not known.

Dr Ravindranath M. Meti, Resident Medical Officer at Vani Vilas hospital, said that “It will take more than 45 to60 days to equip the human milk bank. The government has released Rs. 36 lakhs of the estimated budget Rs. 1.2 crore to 1.4 crores.”

“Our hospital recorded the highest number for treating babies around 17,500 in Karnataka in 2018. Some give birth to twins, and some mothers cannot lactate milk. For the babies who suffer from such conditions, we are trying to provide milk through a human milk bank”, he explained to the Softcopy newspaper.

According to a senior doctor in Vani Vilas hospital, around 1,500 to 1,700 babies born every month. At least 200 babies are in need of human milk. This is the first government-based human milk bank project in the city.

Vani Vilas is on high demand all the time with 50-60 babies born every day. Patients’ names are announced on the microphone when their turn comes.  Begum weighed the baby, 3kg’s on his 23rd day. Like Begum’s son, still, the line is filling with newborns. However, Begum is happy and depressed at the same time. Happiness is for her baby still alive, as doctors thought the baby might die as he was premature, and had some abnormal conditions during birth. She expressed sorrow for her condition not being able to feed the baby who is close at hand and heart.

According to Ravindranath, only two private human banks are available in the city. The two are in high demand and need more donors.

 “Here, In Vani Vilas, we educate people by counselling them to create more awareness among them, so that women who lactate excess milk can volunteer to donate milk. We take milk from them; perform a test on the milk for safety. Then pasteurize the milk to remove bacteria. We announced tenders for equipment. We received two-tenders and finalize one soon,” said Dr Ravindranath.

“Before it was different, now everything has changed. There has been a great advance in the medical field. We should open our eyes and volunteer to donate milk for people who are in need”, said Devi who is feeding her sister’s baby boy.

In many cases, mothers feed babies with buffalo milk. But it is not advisable. Tharun, a medicine student said that “Buffalo milk is richer in fats, calcium, and protein. Still, it is not safe for all babies, as each baby has different compatibilities for digestion.  So it may cause constipation in babies, a severe condition for newborns.