Going to an ATM to withdraw money is common enough; going to a vending machine to withdraw breast milk isn't. Not yet at least; but now in the Union Territory of Puducherry, a human milk bank has been established at the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (Jipmer) to nourish and save preterm babies.
The bank has been named 'Amudham Thaippal Maiyam' (ATM), the same initials as the automated teller machine (ATM) used by banks to dispense money.
Inaugurating the bank, director of Jipmer S C Parija had said that of the 1,500 babies that are born every month, 30 per cent are of low birth weight and mostly preterm, and there is a need for human breast milk in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). This is the reason behind the initiative.
Parija also urged that such ATMs be set up in all NICU facilities in the country.
"If mother's milk is unavailable or insufficient, the next option is to use pasteurised donor human milk. Donor milk after collection will be heated to 62.5°C for 30 minutes and then cooled. It makes the milk germ-free and retains the biochemical and immunological components," he said.
Parija said all healthy lactating mothers with healthy babies can volunteer to donate milk for other babies without compromising on the nutritional needs of their own child. "Mothers whose babies are in neonatal intensive care units, those who have lost their child but are willing to donate milk, lactating working staff in the hospital and motivated mothers from the community can donate," he said.