The infant mortality rate in Karnataka is not on the lighter side of things: it’s 31 for every 1,000 live births. Also, 23 per cent of the babies in the state are born premature.

While the relevancy of breast milk for babies over formula milk is rather well known, there exists not even a single breast milk bank in the state. Diseases like Necrotising enterocolitis could be prevented if the baby gets breast milk than the artificial variant.

As per Dr.Karthik Nagesh, the reason for the absence of the milk banks is the cost involved-setting one up will cost 1 Crore to 2 Crore and maintaining would incur more, he says.

The costs that diseases would cause for the state in the long run isn’t mentioned though-something that should be taken as the context in which things such as higher costs for the facilities are mentioned.

The WHO recommendation mandates exclusive breastfeeding for a period of six months and also complementary feeding for two years. However the percentage of mothers doing this hasn’t improved much over the last two decades, according to Dr Pramod Jog, the president of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics.

He mentions multiple reasons for this-including a lack of accurate information and access to proper counselling as well as absence of support in the household. He added that even though the rate of institutional birth is 84.3 percent, breastfeeding mothers only make up 50 percent.

Dr. Raghunath Mallaiah, the director of neonatology, Fortis La Femme Hospital which opened the very first public breast milk bank in the nation’s capital sheds insights about the workings of such a milk bank. He said that since it was launched in April this year, there have been 25 donors and some 70 litres of breast milk have been collected. The donors come from across the length and breadth of the capital region.

After screening the mothers for viral markers and analysing the milk, every bottle is labelled with its nutritional content-like protein, fat and calories, he says.

But one needn’t look as far as Delhi, even the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu has a government-sponsored milk bank.

Image credits: The Indian Express

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