SINGAPORE - A milk bank has been launched by KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) to help new mothers who cannot produce milk for their babies.
This includes babies who may be premature or very sick.
The hospital hopes that about 375 donors will step forward to give their excess milk over the next three years, and help supply the needs of 900 babies.
The programme, which costs $1.37 million, is funded by philanthropic organisation Temasek Foundation Cares.
Dr Chua Mei Chien, who is a senior consultant in KKH's neonatology department, said at the launch of the milk bank on Thursday (Aug 17) that breast milk contains white blood cells and antibodies that protect a baby against infections.
"The fat globules in breast milk enable better brain development as well as development of vision," she added.
The bank will adhere to the guidelines established in the United States and Britain.
All donor mothers will have to undergo a blood test for diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C infection. They will be allowed to donate only if they lead healthy lifestyles and do not engage in "high-risk activities" such as smoking.
Those who take part will express milk at home and freeze it before taking it to the milk bank. This milk will be pasteurised at 62.5 deg C and tested for bacterial contamination before it is dispensed.
Donated milk will also be tracked to make sure that individual donors can be traced right to the recipient.
Presidential candidate and former Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, who launched the milk bank, said the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore has issued a statement to say it is acceptable for premature Muslim babies to drink donor milk, as it is for the child's well-being.
Currently, eight in 10 sick babies in KKH's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Special Nursery are fed some formula milk, as their mothers do not produce enough for them.