Breast milk bank struggles to find donors

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, June 8, 2013
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The Chinese mainland's first breast milk bank is struggling to attract regular donors and obtaining funding to cover rising costs.

The bank, based in the Guangzhou Women and Children's Medical Center in Guangdong Province, officially opened earlier this month after a two-month trial operation period.

So far, 109 new mothers have registered to donate their breast milk, which will be used to feed babies in the medical center who are sick, premature or malnourished, according to bank co-founder Liu Xihong.

"Breast milk isn't just food, it's also a form of first aid or medical treatment in some cases," Liu said.

A baby surnamed Jiang who suffers from an intestinal fistula is one of eight babies who have benefited from the bank.

The 10-month-old was severely malnourished and weighed just 5.5 kilograms when he was admitted to hospital. But with the help of donated breast milk, he gained 1.65 kilograms in two weeks. Doctors credit the milk for saving his life.

Despite its effectiveness and the need for such an establishment in China, establishing the bank was not easy.

Liu, also director of the medical center's department of clinical nutrition, conducted a survey that found few new mothers were willing to donate.

The survey of 300 people showed only 25 percent of respondents were willing to donate excess breast milk. Only 18 percent said they would accept donated breast milk.

Liu decided to approach new mothers in the hospital, asking for donations face-to-face. They all turned her down.

It was Xu Liang, a popular local radio presenter, who helped her out of her predicament. Xu donated the first bottle of breast milk on March 20 and has continued to promote the cause via her radio show and microblog.

He Jieying, 29, the bank's 100th registered donor, said: "My husband encouraged me to donate my breast milk. He is a regular blood donor."

The woman said her two-month-old baby girl usually can't finish what she has produced, adding she feels it is a waste to throw the milk away.

According to the bank's rules, all donors must provide physical examination results before donating milk and volunteers are required to pump their milk at the bank.

The milk is disinfected and frozen after being donated. Nurses label every bottle with the donor's name, time of donation and the amount.

Mothers donate milk for free at the bank. The milk is provided to the babies at no cost.

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