Staff nurse signs up for milk bank 'to save lives'
At least 15 mothers signed up to be donors at the Temasek Foundation Cares Milk Bank Programme launch yesterday - an encouraging response, said Ms Cynthia Pang, assistant director of nursing at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH).
One of them is Mrs Subashree Panneer Selvam, a staff nurse at KKH.
When breastfeeding her first-born, a boy, five years ago, the 33-year-old would freeze her excess milk - up to 200ml each time. The frozen breast milk came in handy when she started working again, she said.
Mrs Subashree, who gave birth to a girl last month, decided to sign up so she could potentially save a baby's life.
"Even when I go back to work, I can still pump, so I don't have to keep the milk. With the excess milk, I can save people's lives," she said.
Mothers who sign up must not have babies older than a year old. They will be screened for high-risk behaviours like smoking and drinking, and tested to ensure their donated breast milk is safe for consumption.
Those on regular medication and herbal supplements, or women who have had piercings in the past year will also be rejected in accordance with stringent criteria.
In addition, donors have to be tested for diseases like HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and syphilis. These tests adhere to international recommendations for human milk banking and the minimum standards for serological testing (blood tests that look for antibodies) recommended by the Australasian Tissue Banking Forum, said KKH.
Informal milk sharing has existed here for years, with new mothers in Facebook groups offering their excess milk to other mums in need.
Dr Chua Mei Chien, who heads KKH's neonatology department, advises against informal milk sharing because the donors are not screened.
"We cannot guarantee that such methods of milk collection adhere to certain hygiene standards," she said.