Mothers who are unable to provide adequate breast milk can now turn to an official donor milk bank to get safe, pasteurised human breast milk for their babies. Singapore’s first donor human milk bank programme was launched on 17 August 2017 in KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH)
There is no cost for mothers to access the donated breast milk for their babies. However, the beneficiaries must be Singapore citizens and permanent residents who are born in KKH and meet the following criteria:
• born prematurely at less than 32 weeks of gestation
• weigh 1.8kg or less at birth; and
• at high risk of, or diagnosed with necrotising enterocolitis
The programme will be open to babies born in Singapore General Hospital and National University Hospital from August next year.
“Some mothers, due to preterm or complicated deliveries, or other pre-existing conditions, are unable to meet the breast milk requirements for their babies. Providing safe, pasteurised breast milk from donors to these vulnerable babies allows them to benefit from this ideal source of nutrition while also significantly improving their chances of development and recovery,” says Dr Chua Mei Chien, director of Temasek Foundation Cares Donor Human Milk Bank Programme, and head and senior consultant, department of neonatology, KKH.
The three-year project is spearheaded by KKH and supported by Temasek Foundation Cares, and they hope to recruit 375 mothers during this time to donate their excess supply of breast milk to benefit 900 babies. Mothers who wish to donate extra milk must undergo a stringent screening process and the donated milk will be pasteurised and tested for bacteria. These are in line with the guidelines and protocols by United Kingdom National Institute of Health and Care and Human Milk Banking Association of North America.
Donors should also have had their babies within the last 12 months to ensure that the milk is suitable for newborns, as breast milk undergoes changes over time. Once selected for the programme, they will express milk at home, freeze it and bring it to the milk bank.