In a novel initiative, an activist is compiling a list of women willing to donate their breast milk for infants who have lost their mothers to coronavirus.
The move comes after many such requests for breast milk were received on social media.
Activist Anvy Shrivastava with the help of the Delhi government’s health department is compiling such a list of breast milk donors.
"We got few requests of breast milk for infants who lost their mothers to the infection. Milk banks usually provide 30 ml of breast milk for Rs 300, but it cannot be afforded by underprivileged families.
"We are getting donors and we specifically ask them if they have stored colostrum. We are maintaining a database of such donors. Most of these donors are from privileged backgrounds. They store the milk as per their doctors’ advice," Shrivastava told PTI.
She said her team gets breast milk requests from attendants of infants admitted in neonatal ICUs. Some of these infants are breastfed by women who had recently given birth at the same hospital, she said.
"The Delhi government’s health department is backing us. At present, we have around 20 donors. We have asked them to store the breast milk datewise. We collect the milk from them and send it to a milk bank where it is screened. The criteria for a donor is that she should not be suffering from any ailment or be COVID-19 positive," the activist said.
The initiative caught everyone’s attention after various mother community groups talked about it on Telegram along with being noticed on Instagram and Twitter.
"We require colostrum which is produced by a mother in the initial days after she gives birth. Some mothers produce colostrum even before the birth of the child. We have few donors for colostrum," Srivastava said.
Freshly expressed or pumped milk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days and in the freezer for about six months.
"We are preparing for the days ahead. Anticipating that underprivileged families might need it (breast milk) and there can be a similar crisis in the future, we are preparing a database of donors," she said.
The Delhi Commission For Protection of Child Rights also said that it received many requests for breast milk amid the pandemic.
Raghuram Mallaiah, director, Neonatology Fortis La Femme and Founder, Amaara human milk bank, Delhi and Bengaluru said, "During the pandemic, we got requests from two to three hospitals where babies were born premature and their COVID-19 positive mothers were on ventilator. We also provided breast milk to such babies at our hospital.” However, he said there has been a dip in the number of donors amid the pandemic outbreak.
"During pre-Covid times, we had 40-45 litres and even 50 litres of breast milk in our bank, but due to the fear of COVID-19, donor mothers now do not want to step out and also do not want anyone to come and visit them. Till February-March, we were doing fine, but after that we have had few donations and hardly get 15-20 litres a month. We even had to say no to a couple of hospitals with such requests,” he said.
The hospital used to donate 40 bottles of breast milk to Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC), but the Covid situation has led us to discontinue it, he added.