A possible solution is the establishment of at least one human milk bank (HMB) in the country.
The concept was recently introduced to 750 pregnant and new mothers at a breastfeeding and child nutrition symposium in Dubai.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm to my presentations. I believe that mothers and pregnant women are conscious now about the advantages of donor human milk (DHM) collected from the banks,” wrote the concurrent European Association of Human Milk Banks president, in an e-mail interview.
In the field of caring for premature and sick newborns with low birth weight, intrauterine growth retardation, sepsis, birth asphyxia and other birth defects, Moro was asked by baby products manufacturer Philip Avent to talk about the advantages of HMBs.
Along with other neonatologists in Italy, Moro authored the “Guidelines for the Establishment and Operation of a Donor Human Milk Bank” published in the September 2010 issue of “The Journal of Maternal-Foetal and Neonatal Medicine.”
In a copy forwarded to The Gulf Today, they defined DHM as the “breastmilk from a mother other than the biological mother of the recipient fed to pre-term and sick infants.”
They also labeled DHM as the “valid alternative” when mother’s milk is “not available or insufficient.”
This could be linked to what Sheikh Khalifa Medical City-Abu Dhabi Nutrition Services director Dr Mohamad Miqdady told The Gulf Today that mothers must from start breastfeed their babies. However, there are instances when they cannot breastfeed, for example, when they have just been discharged from the intensive care unit or are ill with cancer and are under medication.
Miqdady mentioned that in his three years stay in the UAE, there have been as many women who are knowledgeable about the benefits of breastfeeding as there are who are unaware or badly informed about it. There are also those who are in a bind on whether to breastfeed or not, since they feel they lack the support, are frustrated as to how long they would breastfeed or are concerned with the short maternity leave.
Moro encouraged the establishment of HMBs in the UAE.
He said, “Human milk should be a human right to each infant especially to the weakest, all over the world.”
According to Moro, HMBs have long existed since the early 1900s and even as it declined in the 1980s in Western Europe “largely as a result of knowledge about HIV transmission via breastmilk,” their presence are already across the continent, South America, Australia and South Africa.
Pursuing the need for the proliferation of HMBs as an extension of national breastfeeding policies on the global scale even as they cautioned that DHM must be properly screened, handled and distributed after it has first been “thermally treated,” Moro and his fellow neonatologists wrote in their research paper that based on studies, HMBs and DHM have improved the health of premature and babies born with birth defects.
Specifically, they cited reduced incidences of necrotising enterocolitis, sepsis and other infections, and bronchopulmonary dysplasia, as well as enhanced feeding tolerance.
They also wrote: “Long term follow ups conducted in the United Kingdom in the 1980 showed that the adolescents born pre-term and randomly assigned to DHM, as the sole diet or in addition to their mother’s own milk, had a less atherogenic lipoprotein profile, lower diastolic arterial blood pressure, and lower risk of insulin resistance at 13 to 16 years of age than those assigned to infant formula.”
The establishment of one HMB may cost around 80,000 Euro or Dhs0.42 million, depending on its size, the number of employees, including the number of microbiological tests performed, said Moro.
“The initiative will not cost too much, particularly if you consider the health benefits when you utilise DHM instead of infant formula to premature babies and infants born with birth defects,” he added.
Suggesting that a special committee composed of neonatologists, lactating mothers, as well as government and religious representatives be organised to oversee the establishment of an HMB in the UAE, Moro said “strategies could be tailored for Islamic countries.”