Proposal seeks to build more charity breast milk banks

Yang Yang
Charity breast milk banks should be more widely adopted to raise the breast milk feeding rate for premature babies.
Yang Yang

Charity breast milk banks should be more widely adopted to raise the breast milk feeding rate for premature babies, delegates from the Shanghai Women's Federation suggested at the ongoing 2023 Shanghai Two Sessions.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breastfeeding in the first six months is essential for the healthy growth of a newborn, whereas, for babies, especially those with poor health, whose mothers are unable to breastfeed, receiving breast milk donation is a great alternative. Breast milk banks, therefore, become an essential medical facilities for collecting, testing, transporting, storing and delivering donated breast milk for babies in need.

At the Two Sessions, the Shanghai Women's Federation called on constructing more charity breast milk banks, in order to build a children-friendly city. Shanghai's current breast milk banks are still in the primary stage, according to their proposal.

In June 2016, Shanghai set up its first charity breast milk bank at Shanghai Children's Hospital. In the past six years, the bank has collected a total of 7 million milliliters of breast milk and helped more than 1,900 premature babies born at Shanghai Children's Hospital, Shanghai First Maternity and Infant Hospital and other institutions.

According to statistics, China ranks second in the world in terms of the number of premature babies. Shanghai has about 200,000 newborn babies annually. Its premature infant proportion in 2021 was 7%.

A great gap exists between breast milk supply and need.

According to Shanghai Children's Hospital's breast milk bank, 817 people donated breast milk between 2016 and 2022, whereas a premature baby requires an average of 82.72ml of breast milk in around 46 days of hospitalization.

If Shanghai intends to achieve 50% coverage of breastfeeding on its premature infants, it will need an additional donation of more than 10 million milliliters of breast milk from 128 more donors, according to Shanghai Health Commission's 2020 figures.

Operation cost for a breast milk bank, however, is huge. Take Shanghai Children's Hospital's breast milk bank for example. Its annual operation fees amount to 1.66 million yuan (US$245,680). If the bank wants to expand and develop, an extra fee of US$0.22 million will be needed annually.

The proposal from Shanghai Women's Federation mainly includes: strengthening science popularization on breastfeeding and breast milk banks; standardizing the construction and operation of breast milk banks; giving more support to working mothers, especially mothers of premature babies, in their lactation period.

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