VN’s first human milk bank benefits at-risk babies

April 13, 2017 - 15:10

Some 136 at-risk babies have received milk over two months from 46 donor mothers from the country’s first human milk bank at the Đà Nẵng Hospital for Women and Children.

A mother donates milk at Việt Nam’s first human milk bank in central Đà Nẵng City. — Photo
Viet Nam News

ĐÀ NẴNG — Some 136 at-risk babies have received milk over two months from 46 donor mothers from the country’s first human milk bank at the Đà Nẵng Hospital for Women and Children.

International and Vietnamese experts on breastfeeding, newborn care and human milk banks heard this at a workshop held today in central Đà Nẵng City, organised to learn more about the establishment of the country’s first human milk bank.

At the event, hospital representatives shared initial achievements and challenges of the milk bank and the role of early essential newborn care in ensuring there are enough milk donors to feed all infants in need of human milk.

Since 2015, the Đà Nẵng Department of Health and the Đà Nẵng Hospital for Women and Children have been working with PATH and Alive & Thrive to highlight the importance of human milk and the ability of human milk banks to offer a solution for optimal growth and development for at-risk children. As a result of this partnership, Việt Nam’s first human milk bank opened on February 6, 2017.

The hospital has trained health staff across departments to provide breastfeeding support for all mothers and infants to ensure infants receive the best nutrition possible. Since its opening, 136 at-risk babies have received milk from 46 donor mothers, who passed strict hygiene and safety testing, totaling 60 litres of donated human milk.

Nguyễn Đức Vinh, director of the Maternal and Child Health Department at the Ministry of Health, said: “The human milk bank is giving at-risk children of Đà Nẵng City a chance of survival. We hope the lessons and experiences from this model will be applied in other locations in Việt Nam.”

“The human milk bank represents more than just a location where breast milk is donated and received to save the lives of vulnerable children; it also aims to raise awareness on the importance of breastfeeding and promote the same in society. The rate of breastfeeding in Việt Nam in general, and in Đà Nẵng city in particular, should be increased to a level of importance equal with breast milk,” director of the Đà Nẵng Health Department Ngô Kim Yến said.

“One of the key things we see in the development of the human milk bank here in Việt Nam is that it cannot operate alone -- it must be integrated within a wider model of newborn care,” Program Director of Alive & Thrive in Southeast Asia Roger Mathisen said.

“The human milk bank provides a link between neonatal care and breastfeeding, connecting at-risk newborns with human milk. An integrated approach linking neonatal care, human milk banking and breastfeeding promotion is vital to its success,” Mathisen added.

Studies have repeatedly shown that of all the known solutions to reduce child mortality (22 deaths out of every 1,000 live births among children under five in Việt Nam), human milk has the greatest potential impact on child survival and development; it contains the key nutrients infants need to build strong immune systems and is the best and easiest food for babies to digest.

While all newborns can benefit from human milk, not all women are able to provide breast milk for their babies. Sometimes the mother is too ill or on medication incompatible with breastfeeding. For infants at greatest risk -- pre-term, low weight or orphaned -- the World Health Organisation recommends donor milk as the best alternative.

The Đà Nẵng Hospital for Women and Children is the top-ranked hospital in the field of pediatrics and obstetrics with 900 planned beds and 1765 actual beds. Each year, the hospital welcomes 13,000-15,000 births. The hospital’s neonatal pediatrics department provides treatment for some 120 babies with low weight, premature birth or illness each day, and is also a training centre for neonatal care for many domestic and international hospitals. — VNS