Without having heard of the coronavirus or the pandemic that would force half the world to confine their homes, earlier this year, the Community of Madrid breast milk bank launched a milk collection service at home whose The objective was, in principle, to make donor life easier.
"Now it is what the donation is maintaining because it prevents the displacement of women to the hospital" and guarantees security measures before COVID-19, acknowledges, in an interview with Efe, the head of the Regional Breast Milk Bank of the Community from Madrid and neonatologist at Hospital 12 de Octubre, Nadia García Lara.
After overcoming COVID-19, he has returned to work and explains that, in addition, to minimize the risk of contagion, since March 14 -when the state of alarm was decreed-, milk is collected once a month.
Until this service was launched, it was the donors themselves who delivered their milk every fortnight to one of the authorized hospitals or centers.
From there it was sent to October 12, where it is pasteurized, processed and distributed to the other five public hospitals in the community's milk bank network: La Paz, Puerta de Hierro (Majadahonda), Clínico, Severo Ochoa (Leganés) and Prince of Asturias (Alcalá de Henares).
"The women told us that the main difficulty in being a donor was having to travel to deliver milk," says the neonatologist.
And they looked for a solution.
After the unsuccessful attempt to get the Health Department to finance the project, the milk bank reached an agreement with the Ronald McDonald Children's Foundation, which subsidizes the service and is responsible for hospital transport and the specific training of the three people who collect it. milk throughout the region.
In other places, such as Granada, during the confinement a group of taxi drivers have volunteered to make the collection, praises the doctor.
In Spain there are still five communities (Canarias, Castilla-La Mancha, Navarra, La Rioja and Murcia) that do not have a milk bank, a lack that García Lara hopes will be solved soon because the investment it requires is much less than the benefits it brings.
ABOUT 28,000 PREMATURES A YEAR
In Spain, 28,000 premature babies are born a year - before the 37th week of gestation - of which nearly 500 are large premature babies - less than 32 weeks gestation or weighing less than 1,500 grams.
Scientific evidence has shown that breast milk is the best food for premature infants and sick newborns, that it protects them against nosocomial infection and favors better digestive tolerance.
In the long term, breastfed children have better neurodevelopment and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
For this reason, the main candidates to be fed with donated milk are premature babies of less than 1,500 grams, those who are severe or have serious digestive problems, and those who suffer from heart disease.
And now they are also offered to newborns of mothers infected with coronavirus until they recover.
COVID-19 is not transmitted through breast milk but, given the ease of its contagion through contact, inevitable during lactation, in some hospitals they are offered to feed them with milk from the bank until they recover.
HUNDREDS OF CHILDREN BENEFIT EVERY YEAR FROM THE BANCO DE LECHE
The bank assists between 600 and 700 children a year and has an annual allocation of about 1,800 liters.
García Lara warns that, although the milk bank still has reserves because with the start of the collection at home the first quarter was very good, "the deficit will gradually be noticed."
Right now it has a hundred donors and about 200 liters of milk, which is equivalent to consuming "just over a month."
"An amount that was expected to increase with home collection before the pandemic," acknowledges García Lara, who explains that COVID-19 forced to stop the recruitment of new donors to prevent them from going to the hospital.
And the donations are limited and you have to start looking for new donors.
"You can't stop the machine," he warns, and calls for something similar to what is being done with blood donors, who go to the hospital, "establishing a security protocol."
ABOUT 300 DONORS A YEAR
Since the regional milk bank was opened in 2007, more than 1,900 women have donated 12,000 liters to more than 4,000 children.
It has an average of 300 donors a year, who contribute between 6 and 7 liters each. The donation time is usually that of breastfeeding your baby, that is, about three or four months because it is usually conditioned by your maternal leave.
They are educated, committed and knowledgeable women of the benefits that breast milk has for newborns.
Most have had full-term pregnancies and healthy children; others are mothers of premature babies. Their babies stay in for quite a long time and are very committed because their children have been fed with milk from the bank until they have managed to produce their own.
And about fifteen percent are mothers of deceased babies. "Donating helps them integrate the loss, validate their motherhood and get something good out of that experience," is similar to organ donation when a child dies in a traffic accident, he argues.
Macarena Baena Garrido