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Mumbai: Human milk bank going dry; Sion hosp counseling mothers

11:44 PM Aug 02, 2021 | Swapnil Mishra

The human milk bank at the Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General (LTMG) Hospital, or Sion Hospital, has witnessed a 32 per cent drop in the donated quantity and 46 per cent drop in the number of donors since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to data available, the donations have been on a decline for the past four years. Doctors said they get two to three calls every day from donors and have made sure there is enough supply for needy newborns.

As per the available hospital data, 7,700 mothers had donated milk in 2018. This dropped to 7,300 in 2019, followed by 6,600 in 2020. During the pandemic, though, there has been a tremendous drop with only 3,500 mothers as donors. Vis-à-vis quantity, 1,000 litres were donated in 2018, which dipped to 526 litres in 2020. In the past six months, only 325 litres have been donated.

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Sion Hospital’s bank is the first of its kind in the country. It was started on November 27, 1989. Three decades later, it has become a zonal centre helping assess and mentor upcoming milk banks in the western region. The average annual donation to the hospital is 800-1,200 litres or three to four litres a day.

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Dr Swati Manerkar, the head of neonatology and the milk bank at the hospital, said it’s very important to feed the mother’s yellow condensed milk immediately after birth. But many times, the mother is unable to feed her infant due to lack of milk or a medical problem. In such situations, the milk bank is a boon. During the pandemic, though, donations have reduced due to the fear of contracting infection at the hospital. Dr Manekar said the donations also slowed down as donors need to be tested for Covid-19.

During the time of shortfall, sickest children were given priority. The hospital also keeps a buffer of 35-40 litres for use during emergencies. “With the pandemic nowhere on the wane, we have started counselling mothers and started awareness campaigns to boost donations,” Dr Manerkar added.

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