Today is the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week. This annual celebration from August 1 to 7 is aimed at encouraging breastfeeding and improving the health of babies around the world.
World Breastfeeding Week commemorates the Innocenti Declaration signed in August 1990 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding, exclusively for all babies up to four to six months of age “as a global goal for optimal maternal and child health and nutrition”.
For infants unable to feed on their own mothers’ milk due to various reasons – being preterm children (and having high risk of infection), having gastrointestinal anomalies or metabolic disorders, suffering from malnutrition, mothers being dead or too sick to nurse their children, etc. – mother’s milk needs to be supplied externally.
This is where a human milk bank or breast milk bank comes in – it collects milk from donor mothers, pasteurises and stores them, and supplies them when needed.
“Madhur Sneha” (or ‘sweet love’) is the first public-sector human milk bank in eastern India. It was inaugurated at the premier State Government-run SSKM Hospital on August 6, 2013, during World Breastfeeding Week Celebrations, by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and it was she who had christened it ‘Madhur Sneha’.
Stressing the importance of breastfeeding, she said at the inauguration that Madhur Sneha “is the most modernised and advanced breast milk bank set up with utmost care so that it (breast milk) is infection-free and caters to the needs of babies who normally do not get mother’s milk.”
This human milk bank is equipped with machines for pasteurisation of the milk and the most advanced milk collection, screening, processing, testing and storage facilities.
Over the years, Madhur Sneha has done yeoman’s service for infants. According to a report, in 2017, 1,554 newborns admitted in the SNCU/NICU at SSKM received pasteurised milk from the milk bank.