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Donated Breast Milk Offers Life for Babies

Posted August. 06, 2008 06:44,   


“Thinking that I should feed other babies, I have cut out soft drinks, coffee, and hot foods. Thanks to this, I’ve become healthy and fit,” said 37-year-old mother Oh Mi-yeong.

Delivering her second child in August last year, Oh is the “queen of breast milk donation” in Korea.

The East-West Neo Medical Center of Kyung Hee University, the nation’s first university hospital to run a breast milk bank, said yesterday that Oh has donated the most breast milk since November last year with 81 liters.

With this week marking World Breast-feeding Awareness Week, the center will award her a prize at a breast milk donation event Saturday.

“While storing my remaining breast milk in the refrigerator after feeding my baby, I thought it’d be a good idea to give it to those who need it,” she said. “So I searched breast milk banks on the Web.”

“Even when I get a headache or stomachache, I cannot take medicine for fear of affecting my breast milk. I am happy to help those in need with my little effort. In addition, I have gotten healthy.”

Breast milk banks feed premature babies whose mothers are unable to nurse them.

Terminally ill cancer patients also benefit from breast milk since the liquid is nutritious and has immunity-boosting materials.

The medical center is operating three other breast milk banks at Injung Hospital in Seoul; Jeil Women`s Medical Clinic in North Jeolla Province; and Dasan Oriental Medical Center in Incheon.

All four, however, are suffering from financial difficulty due to hefty fees for storage, transportation and operations and lack of government assistance.

Mothers can donate their breast milk for a year after childbirth if they are free from infectious diseases such as hepatitis, mumps, tuberculosis and syphilis. Those wishing to donate should submit their blood test results taken at the time of childbirth to verify their health.

If their health is confirmed, banks give containers to store milk. When the containers are filled, they are sent to the banks by mail.

“A donation costs 30,000 won per person, including expenses for tests, storage and transportation,” said Bae Jong-woo, a professor of maternal and child health care at East-West Neo Medical Center.

Breast milk banks charge 3,000 won for one 180-millimeter bottle of milk. Would-be beneficiaries outnumber donors.

“On average, 68 mothers a year donate breast milk. Most of them do so a couple of times,” said breast bank director Park Eun-yeong.

Breast milk banks in Europe and the United States debuted in the 1900s, and are operating briskly.

In the United States and Britain, breast milk banks have nationwide networks connecting women’s clinics. Breast milk is accepted under strict standards.

Some of the milk has been sent to Africa to help malnourished babies. Canada also exchanges donated milk with the United States.