Learn how breast milk donation works and how to do it safely

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Nurse Rafaele Cristine Ribeiro, 36, resident of Vila Isabel, in Rio de Janeiro, says that working in a neonatal intensive care unit (ICU) was one of the inspirations for becoming a milk donor.

“Babies who receive donated breast milk usually have a shorter hospital stay, better quality of life and a better developed immune system. Also, it is very difficult for a woman to maintain breastfeeding when her child is hospitalized,” she said.

Mother of little Alädé, 1 year and 3 months old, Rafaele says that her son also needed a donation in the first days of his life. According to her, the difficulty of adapting to breastfeeding is quite common.

“When we see our child developing with health and a better quality of life, it is very gratifying. Seeing other families with their healthy children should motivate other women to donate,” she said.

Human milk can bring countless benefits to babies, including a 13% reduction in infant mortality up to 5 years old, prevention of respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases. According to the Ministry of Health, breastfeeding also reduces the risk of allergies, diabetes, cholesterol, hypertension and obesity, in addition to strengthening the bonds between mother and child.

When it comes to donation, the amount is irrelevant: about 200 milliliters can feed up to ten newborns. On this 19th of May, the World Human Milk Donation Day encourages the increase of volunteer mothers.

Data from the Ministry of Health indicate that there was a 7% increase in the volume of donations in 2021, compared to 2020. However, the amount represents only 55% of the real need for human milk in Brazil, according to the ministry. Estimates indicate that, each year, around 340,000 premature or low birth weight babies are born in the country, which corresponds to 12% of all live births.

In 2021, 168 thousand liters of milk were distributed to 237 thousand newborns in the country. For 2022, the ministry’s goal is to expand the offer to newborns hospitalized in neonatal units in the country by 5%.

milk bank network

Brazil has a wide network for donation, with 225 human milk banks in operation distributed in all states and the Federal District . The national average is 45 milk banks per micro-region of the country. Furthermore, 217 collection points are available (see) which allow the home-pickup procedure in some states.

Danielle Aparecida da Silva, coordinator of the milk bank at Instituto Fernandes Figueira, from Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz), explains that donated milk undergoes rigorous quality control before being distributed, being supplied according to the needs of each newborn. -born.

“Human milk banks are specialized breastfeeding support services that emerged as a strategy to qualify neonatal care in terms of food and nutrition security, and aim to contribute to the reduction of infant mortality in hospital institutions”, says Danielle.

Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) indicate that about 6 million lives are saved each year due to the increase in breastfeeding rates up to the sixth month of life.

When breastfeeding, the woman lose weight faster gained during pregnancy and is protected from various diseases. The practice decreases uterine bleeding (which occurs for a period after delivery), preventing anemia, and reducing the chances of developing osteoporosis, breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer . The donation of surplus milk also contributes to prevent inflammation in the breasts known as mastitis.

The Brazilian Society of Pediatrics (SBP) reinforces that breast milk favors the development and digestive and immunological maturation of newborns and reduces complications related to premature birth, such as inflammation and necrosis of the intestine, eye and lung disorders and sepsis (severe complication due to late infection, which mainly affects preterm infants hospitalized in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU).

Specialists point out that there is no minimum amount for donation and that continuity is essential for the maintenance of stocks. Every breastfeeding woman is a potential breast milk donor. Just be healthy and not take any medication that interferes with breastfeeding (see the picture below ).

The functioning of human milk banks in Brazil is regulated by a resolution from the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) and the Ministry of Health, which guarantees the safety of the process. After collection, the milk is analyzed, pasteurized and subjected to strict quality control. It is then distributed according to the specific needs of each hospitalized newborn.

The Ministry of Health states that the donation of human milk also represents a source of saving resources, due to the decrease in the need to purchase infant formula for premature newborns in maternity hospitals of the Unified Health System (SUS).

Source: CNN Brasil

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