Social Issues

Human milk banks boost breastfeeding of infants in Spain

Seville, Spain, Aug 3 (EFE).- Spanish breast milk banks have become instrumental in supporting mothers to nourish their infants, according to the Spanish Association of Human Milk Banks.

Spain currently has 16 human milk banks scattered across the country and at the Virgen de las Nieves hospital in Granada, over 3,700 babies have benefitted from the program which has distributed more than 8,800 liters of milk since it opened 12 years ago.

Manuela Peña, president of the Spanish Association of Breast Milk Banks and coordinating neonatologist of the bank at the Granada hospital, says raising awareness of these largely unknown programs is essential because “not only sick newborns” benefit from the service.

There is “a double benefit since the more milk is removed (from the breast), the more is produced,” says the doctor.

This week the World Health Organization and Unicef called on governments to ramp up resources to promote breastfeeding as part of World Breastfeeding Week, which was officially established by both agencies in 1992.

According to WHO breastfeeding “acts as a baby’s first vaccine, protecting them from common childhood illnesses.”

The WHO’s project to step up international efforts for breastfeeding mothers came in the wake of an acute shortage of commercial milk formula in the United States in May that saw several products recalled due to bacterial contamination, according to the Lancet medical journal.

Peña says milk donors, donations and the number of hospitals distributing them have been steadily rising in Spain since 2020.

Donors have to “be healthy women, who are satisfactorily breastfeeding her child, who have healthy lifestyle habits and a balanced diet,” Peña continues.

Mothers undergo regular testing to ensure the donated milk contains no diseases and are trained on how to use breast pumps, and on how to package and label milk to ensure “maximum safety and quality throughout the procedure”.

Once the milk is extracted, it is frozen and taken to the banks to be processed, where donations are analyzed for their nutritional value and to ensure donations will not “be a vehicle for infection,” Peña explains.

The breast milk is then pasteurized and frozen and made available to newborns, particularly premature children born at 32 weeks or under and weighing around 1.5 kilos, or infants who undergo surgery or are born with congenital diseases.

“This promotes their development because with donated milk, we guarantee that they will have fewer infections and develop fewer complications,” says Peña, who champions the benefits of human milk and says that after decades of rising consumption of formula, more mothers are turning to breastfeeding. EFE


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