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EVERY DAY, a milk bank at a medical school receives breast-milk donations from willing mothers.
“Each of them offers between 300 and 900 ounces of milk,” said the bank’s nutritionist, Parisa Sonthi.
Donors must undergo blood tests and health screenings to ensure they are free from HIV, syphilis, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and cytomegalovirus, she notes. The donated breast milk must have also been tested and pasteurised before being given to babies in need at Siriraj Hospital.
“We have frozen pasteurised breast milk at minus 20 degrees Celsius. It can be kept for six months,” Parisa explained.
The milk bank at Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital, sprang into operation in 2012 but its services only came to public attention recently, as the wisdom of feeding one’s own babies with the breast milk of others was suddenly widely debated on social media.
Passavee “Numwan” Payacaboot, the wife of famous actor Navin “Tar” Yavapolkul, took to Instagram to openly discuss donating her excess breast milk to others, causing several health experts to warn about the risks of accepting donated breast milk.
It can pass diseases from donors to recipients in the same way that blood can, they warn.
Information from the milk bank notes that ensuring safety requires more than a simple transfer between donor and recipient.
Some medical procedures are also required to protect babies from the risks of getting infected milk.
Dr Sutheera Uerpairojkit, a neonatologist at BNH Hospital and a member of the Thai Breastfeeding Centre Foundation, said mothers should try to feed their babies with their own breast milk.
“If you need to take breast milk from others, you should contact milk banks that have solid and efficient systems with all health screenings,” she said.
The doctor even cautioned breast-feeding mothers against giving away their breast milk directly to other mums.
“If milk donated out of a good intention hurts the health of a baby, how will you take responsibility?” she said.