Breast Milk Bank: Its Process, Health Benefits & FAQs
Breast milk is of great importance for infants and babies. However, not every mother is able to feed her baby with her breast milk because of several reasons. The breast milk bank is of immense help for such mothers. Let us read below to know more about breast milk bank.
Breast Milk Bank: Definition & An Overview
Definition: “It is a service that is established for collecting, screening, processing, storing and then distributing the donated breast milk(1, 2).”
It is accepted worldwide that breast milk is loaded with exclusive nutrients and is the best for babies at least for the first 6 months of their life(3, 4). Human breast milk offers great health benefits and it cannot be replaced by any other nutrition source for the little ones. However, when mother’s own breast milk is not available for any reason; pasteurized human donor milk is also beneficial(4).
A breast milk bank is actually a service that collects, properly screens, then processes and distributes by prescription human breast milk that are being donated by lactating mothers who are not related biologically to the infant consumer. Thus, breast milk banks provide a solution to the mothers who are not able to feed their own milk to their children.
According to the WHO or the World Health Organization, it is stated that the first and foremost alternative to a biological mother being unable to breast feed should be the use of breast milk from other human sources and the breast milk banks serves the best role here(4).
The Process of Breast Milk Banking:
Below we have described about the process of breast milk banking:
Step 1: Donation of Breast Milk
The first step is the donation of human breast milk(4). Lactating women donate their frozen breast milk to the breast milk banks.
Step 2: Clean Technique
Then after the donation of the breast milk, the team at the breast milk bank and the pasteurization room are prepared with certain procedures that diminish the risk of any contamination to the breast milk.
Step 3: Pouring of Breast Milk
The third step here is pouring. The staff and volunteers now pour the thawed breast milk into flasks.
Step 4: Nutritional Analysis of the Donated Breast Milk
It is essential to have nutritional analysis of the donor’s breast milk. So, a sample of each donor’s breast milk is properly scanned by infrared spectroscopy for determining the protein, fat and the lactose content.
Step 5: Bottling of the Donated Breast Milk
Then mixed pools of the donated breast milk targeting the specific nutritional needs of ill or sick babies are poured into BPA-free bottles for the process of pasteurization.
Step 6: Pasteurizing of the Donated Breast Milk
The next step is pasteurization step(4). The milk is heated for at least 30 minutes to a temperature of 62.5 degrees C. The pasteurization step kills the bacteria and viruses that might be harmful to the infants, while retaining most of the beneficial components of the milk.
Step 7: Bacteriological Cultures of the Breast Milk
The donated breast milk is cultured before and also after the pasteurization step in the breast milk bank so as to ensure the absence of any bacteria(4).
Step 8: Freezing of the Donated Breast Milk
Freezing of the breast milk is the final step in the process of storing it in the breast milk bank. The pasteurized breast milk is then stored in a deep freeze till it is dispensed to hospital or to outpatient infants or babies.
Donors in the Breast Milk Bank:
Breast milk donors are the healthy women who are concerned about the health of other babies and infants. Breast milk donors are usually lactating or nursing women who breastfeed their own infants and have got an abundant supply of breast milk, and thus would donate their extra milk to the breast milk banks. These donors do not receive any compensation or payment for this generous act. However, there is an immense satisfaction that comes from knowing that their breast milk will be used for improving the health of another infant or rather a fragile infant.
Health Benefits of Breast Milk Bank:
Human breast milk is especially important for sick, weak or premature babies. The breast milk contains antibodies that fights diseases and infections and even protects against allergies. Moreover, human breast milk even contains growth hormones that help the babies in their growth and development.
Here are some of the health benefits of breast milk bank.
Breast milk banks offer families a chance of providing their children with healthy and reliable milk from other mothers. These breast milk banks offer milk, which is consumed mostly by babies whose mothers are unable to provide them with healthy or any reliable milk(4).
Breast milk from breast milk bank is considered to be the “the next best” after the breast milk of the child’s biological mother. The donated breast milk is helpful in treating several conditions, such as mal-absorption, prematurity, short-gun syndrome, nephritic syndrome, intractable diarrhea, formula intolerance, some congenital anomalies, failure to thrive and immune deficiencies(4).
Banked breast milk is useful for babies or infants who are in the neonatal intensive care units and also other babies at home requiring human breast milk(4).
Concerns of Breast Milk Bank:
There are some of the concerns of breast milk bank and they includes, the cost, its availability, lack of interest of the healthcare provider, and concern because of the type of women who might have donated.
Can Any Breastfeeding Mother Donate Her Breast Milk?
Breast milk banks recruit only healthy mothers with their babies below 6 months old. Any women willing to donate her breast milk will be asked by the breast milk bank to undergo screening for any infection that might pass into the breast milk(4).
What Should Be The Donor Requirements In The Breast Milk Bank?
The donor of breast milk in a breast milk bank, should be healthy, must be in the lactation process, must undertake a chest x-ray or have the Tyne test, have no evidence of hepatitis, must have negative VDRL, and she must be also HIV negative.
All the donor’s breast milk must undergo screening process that is similar to that which is used for blood donation, which includes a special interview, serological screening (including testing for hepatitis B, C, HIV and the virus of human T cell leukemia). Moreover, the breast milk must also be collected, stored, pasteurized and cultured properly(4).
Who Are The Consumers?
After the breast milk has been donated to the breast milk bank, its primary consumers are premature babies(4). Some other consumers of the breast milk include adults having medical complications or any medical condition. The primary reason why premature infants consume donor breast milk is that their biological mother cannot provide their milk to their baby(4). The donor milk thus, acts as a substitute.