China breast milk bank grows

Added On July 12, 2017

Thanks to long-term health promotion, most Chinese families are already familiar with the benefits of breast feeding for new babies.  
And now Beijing has welcomed its first public hospital breast milk bank, to help nurse newborns to good health.
The milk bank is hosted at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital, and follows a successful scheme run in Shanghai.  
Since last June, Shanghai's Children's Hospital has helped over 121 critical newborns.
The breast milk bank, topped up with the help of 392 volunteer mothers, provides free nutrition for critical newborns, like infants suffering from diseases and low birthweight babies.
SOUNDBITE: Donor, Hubei
"Breast milk bank is for the public good. I'm happy to help these premature and sick babies. We all need to take our share of responsibility to be a mother."
About 1.1 million premature infants are born in China every year.
Breastfeeding promotes healthy development, and can mean a significantly lower chance of disease. 
SOUNDBITE:  LI ZHENGHONG, Peking union medical college Hospital
"Breast  milk  aids  the  baby's digestive  and  absorptive  functions,   and  there  are  some  special  hormone  components,   which  can  promote  gastrointestinal  motivation  and  maturation.  Things not found in powdered milk formula."
According to child mortality studies, breast milk is often the most important measure to a baby's survival.
SOUNDBITE: ZHANG TING, Director of Shanghai breast milk bank
"According to statistics, babies who are fed by donated milk had over 50 percent reduction in neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis which is a deadly killer for premature infants."
Since breast milk can boost growth and enhance immunity, some European countries began establishing breast milk banks for needy babies more than 100 years ago.
SOUNDBITE:  LI ZHENGHONG, Peking union medical college Hospital
"The  situation  is  different  abroad.  As  long  as  the  child' s weight  is  less  than  10  kg,   By  the  doctor  to  prescribe  the case, they  are  ninety  percent  are  receiving  donations  for  breast  milk." 
China's first breast milk bank opened in Guangzhou in 2013.
The development of the service has been hampered by a misconception among Chinese people that ingesting breast milk from a donor is not safe, a lack of government support and high operating costs.T
Experts  call  more laws  and  regulations  to  improve  breast milk standards  and  to  help  long-term  development.
SOUNDBITE:  LI ZHENGHONG, Peking union medical college Hospital
"At  present, the  operation  of  the  China' s  breast  milk  library  still  has  many  difficulties  and  challenges,   such  as  the  shortage  of  funds.  Because  of  the  lack  of  specific  policy  about  the  donations  and  uses  of  breast  milk,   no  standard charge,   currently all  the  breast  milk  library  belongs  to  voluntary  donations  and  free  use.  The operating equipment and  funds usually depend  on  charitable  donations  or  are self-raised by the hospital."
SOUNDBITE: ZHANG TING, Director of Shanghai breast milk bank
"According to estimates, one milliliter of donated milk cost nearly 1 yuan.Since there is not an official fee standard published by the Government, we don't charge at all for their services. The bank is totally for public good."
The Shanghai bank estimates that its costs amount to nearly 500,000 yuan per year, around 73,000 US dollars. 
It is currently mid-way through a three year government project and is looking for help with charities, NGO's and public fundraising.