By Hafizah Rafie, BMSG Breastfeeding Counsellor
On 17 August 2017, the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital together with Temasek Foundation, launched a 3-year pilot programme known as the ‘Temasek Foundation Cares- Donor Human Milk Bank’ programme. This programme is a non-profit initiative launched to provide pasteurised human donor milk to premature (less than 34 weeks) and sick infants. It will begin at KK hospital in the first year, after which the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and National University Hospital (NUH) will follow.
Breastmilk can be life-saving for premature and sick babies as their immature digestive system is prone to feeding intolerance. They are also at risk of developing a life-threatening condition known as “necrotising enterocolitis”, a serious intestinal disease among premature babies. These premature babies are not able to process infant formula milk. Furthermore, mothers of premature babies may sometimes experience difficulty in producing breast milk especially in the initial days. With this initiative, mothers of premature babies can receive human donor milk from other breastfeeding mothers without worrying about the impact of the milk on their babies’ sensitive digestive system.
Under this programme, the donor milk will be screened, processed and dispensed by prescription in accordance to the international guidelines. The donated milk will be tested for infections before and after the process of pasteurisation. Milk collected from each donor will be kept at 50ml per bottle. Small volumes of feed of 1-5ml will be administered every 2 to 3 hours. Each bottle of 50ml will not be given to a specific baby. Instead, the 50ml of milk will be distributed to as many premature babies as possible. This means that each baby will receive only 1 feed from that particular bottle of 50ml. Thus, a baby will receive milk from about 20 women throughout the time in the NICU, without knowing the amount of milk consumed from each individual donor. In addition, all donors will be kept anonymous. However, if the baby’s own mother starts to produce milk at any point, the mother’s breastmilk will be given first, followed by any added amount required from the human milk bank.
It is important to note that the premature babies will continue to receive donor milk until they are 34 weeks old or until their weight exceeds 1.8kg.
The criteria to be a donor is rather stringent. The breastfeeding mother has to be breastfeeding a baby who is less than 1 year old; a non-smoker; not tested positive for HIV, Hepatitis B and C or Syphilis. Apart from that, the mother cannot be taking any illegal drugs, not consume more than 2 alcoholic drinks a day and not drink more than 3 cups of coffee or tea a day. This strict criteria is to ensure that the babies receive as much nutritional value from the donated breastmilk as possible.
All premature babies regardless of their religion will benefit from the donated human milk bank. The Islamic Religious Council in Singapore (MUIS) has issued a ‘fatwa’ (religious ruling) that Muslim babies who receive milk from the donated milk bank will not be related to the donors by any kinship ties. Thus, Muslim parents in Singapore can be reassured that they can receive the human milk for their premature babies if the mother has difficulty in producing milk in the initial days. With the launch of the human milk bank, parents with premature babies can breathe easy as their babies will now be able to receive human breastmilk and not depend on formula. This will aid in their recovery and wellbeing.
By Melissa Anderson Kirwin
I could not think of a better way to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week than to be a part of BMSG’s Big Latch On event. The morning was spent with some amazing women and their families all with the common goal of supporting one another throughout their breastfeeding journey and raising awareness on the breastfeeding support resources available within the community.
My four-month-old daughter, Luca and I attended the event and were amazed at the warm collective spirit of the organizers and participants. Aside from the primary reason to participate in the actual Big Latch On event, we all were there to share our experiences, exchange information and support one another on the topics of breastfeeding, pregnancy, childbirth and baby wearing.
Luca is my second child and breastfeeding experience. As I was preparing for her birth, my ego and my personal successes with my firstborn son had me eagerly awaiting another “successful” breastfeeding experience with my second child. Mother nature definitely humbled me this time round with engorgement problems, clogged milk ducts and forceful let downs – none of which I encountered with my first child.
At the event, I was able to discuss some of these issues with the BMSG Breastfeeding Counsellors. They provided me with tips on how to manage forceful letdowns and make the initial part of a breastfeeding session more comfortable for my baby girl. I learnt that by lying down or leaning back, gravity is able to work in your favour by slowing the flow of your milk. Additionally, a baby boy may nurse more vigorously than a baby girl. So my “forceful” letdown three years ago may not have been so strong for my son whose appetite may have better matched my flow of milk. I was also reassured that as my daughter gets older, she will be better able to handle a letdown. As I was pondering on the drastic differences between my breastfeeding experiences, one counselor even mentioned that the caloric content of breast milk made for boys is higher than girls. The human body is indeed amazing on how breastmilk is tailor made for each baby.
I was also able to spend some time with the husband and wife team from Warabee, local baby wearing experts and distributors of ring slings, wraps and other baby wearing products. Not only did they have the baby carriers available from their company but they also had a huge sample of baby carriers from other companies to try on. They are truly dedicated in educating on baby wearing and finding the best possible carrier that fits the needs of parents and their babies. They spent time with me and assisted me in trying on a few carriers with Luca to see which one fit us the best. My husband and I currently own a handful of baby carriers and never felt that any of them were completely comfortable for either of our babies or us. With the new expansion in family size from one child to two, comfortable baby wearing is now essential for us as we trek the streets of Singapore. The partners from Warabee helped me figure out why none of our current carriers felt right and provided me with a few options that felt much more comfortable than any other carrier I have tried before.
It was such an amazing opportunity to participate in The Big Latch On event. Through BMSG’s efforts, all participants were able to contribute to raising breastfeeding awareness and support breastfeeding families across our community and at the global level (by being counted in the Global Big Latch On participant numbers). I walked away as an inspired breastfeeding mother and I cannot wait for BMSG’s next event on supporting women and their families in their breastfeeding journey!
Do go to our Facebook page to check out the whole album for the Big Latch On!
August has been packed full of activities for us! With World Breastfeeding Week celebrated in the first week of the month, the month of August had lots of events focused on promoting breastfeeding.
We started off with our highly-anticipated annual event, The Big Latch On. We were back at Hong Lim Park again this year, after a hiatus in 2016, and it was a blast. It was such a lovely sight to see breastfeeding families come together to enjoy the event and celebrate breastfeeding. And especially heartwarming to see babies, toddlers and even preschoolers participate in the synchronised latching on. We had 24 women latching on, part of the global total of nearly 18,000 women in more than 700 locations.
Another highlight of our month was the launch of Singapore’s first and only Donor Human Milk Bank programme. As providers of community support for breastfeeding mothers, BMSG and our counsellors were invited to the launch event. It was really exciting for us to be a part of this landmark event. And we are already working on getting the word out to promote this donation effort to all the pumping mums we know.
Lastly, August is the month where we celebrate National Day in Singapore. While this is not particularly breastfeeding-related, I always feel that breastfeeding my children is my form of service to the nation. As breastfeeding mothers, we are giving our children the best start in life, and potentially reducing the cost of the healthcare for the state. So that sounds like national service to me, for sure!
In September, as part of our series of quarterly events, we will be hosting a talk by dentist Dr Yue Weng Cheu – “Breastfeeding – Nature’s Innate Myofunctional Training for the Tongue and Oral Muscles”. It will be on Sunday, 17 September, 3-5pm, at SCWO.
As usual, our regular monthly workshops and Mum 2 Mum meetings are still ongoing, so if you know someone who wants to know more about breastfeeding, or needs some support, do send them our way. We now partner with a childbirth educator for our prenatal workshop, and a babywearing consultant for our Returning to Work session, so there’s more to learn when you come to a BMSG workshop.
Until next month,