Mother's milk stored in bank. (Photo: Jasvinder Sehgal)

Mother's milk stored in bank. (Photo: Jasvinder Sehgal)

Sonu Nagda is breastfeeding her 8 month old daughter.

She has more than enough milk so she regularly donates some of it to her local milk bank in the western Indian city of Udaipur.

"Donating breast milk doesn’t cost anything to me. Think of the infants whose mothers have died or are not able to feed their child,” she said.

The Divya Mother Milk Bank is run by a local NGO which also runs an orphanage for abandoned children in Udaipur.

Devendra Agrawal, a yoga guru who heads the group, says most of the children are girls.

“We decided to educate the people that if you don’t like your daughters, don’t throw them, gift them to us. Within no time hundreds of daughters were left in our orphanage,” he said.  

He notices that many suffered from low immunity. And realized it was because they were not receiving mother's milk.

Mother’s milk is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and lifelong immunity to the infant.



The bank which has been running since April 2013 collects 40 liters of breast milk each month.

Most, but not all, of the bank's milk is given to premature babies receiving care at the government-run hospital in Udaipur.

“During last two years after the bank came into existence, almost 2,500 mothers have donated more than sixteen thousand units of milk to save almost thirteen hundred infants from untimely death,” said Agrawal.

Despite major in roads in reducing child mortality - India still accounts for 20% of the world’s infant mortality.

Doctors say in India the main killers are infections and low birth weight.

To prevent these deaths, the charity Save the Children says breast milk, is the most effective solution, particularly when a baby is breastfed immediately after birth and exclusively for the first six months.

The milk bank follows strict control measures.

 “We first check the milk for the major three diseases including HIV which can be transmitted to the infants. We also do the health checkup of the donor. She is checked for blood pressure, malaria, TB, jaundice and other diseases. When all these reports are negative then only we accept the donor,” said Manorma Dangi who works in the laboratory.

15 year old Saroj Kumari is here to get some breastmilk for her aunt who is not able to produce enough to feed twins.  They are two weeks old.

“Since coming here their weight has considerably increased. Before they were very small,” she said.

She vows to repay the bank when she becomes a mother.
 

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