08 Nov 2018
More than 600 Premature and Sick Infants Benefitted from Singapore’s First Donor Human Milk Bank in First Year

Singapore, 8 November 2018 – Within a year of its launch, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) has recruited more than 400 donors to donate their breast milk under the Temasek Foundation Cares Donor Human Milk Bank Programme, exceeding the numbers envisaged.

The KK Human Milk Bank was established to provide the benefits of breast milk to premature and critically-ill babies. The programme has since helped more than 600 vulnerable babies and has helped to reduce the incidence of necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) which causes damage to the infant’s intestinal tract, a leading cause of mortality in premature babies.

Most recipients of the donated human milk were premature babies from KKH, Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and National University Hospital (NUH). Other recipients included sick babies with medical conditions such as low birth weight, congenital heart disease and conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract. On average, each recipient received about 2.9 litres of donor human milk over 13 days.

The Temasek Foundation Cares Donor Human Milk Bank Programme was officially launched on 17 August 2017, and aims to provide a ready supply of pasteurised human breast milk that is safe for premature and sick neonates of mothers who may be unable to provide adequate breast milk to support their babies’ requirement.

Dr Chua Mei Chien, Director, KK Human Milk Bank, and Head and Senior Consultant, Department of Neonatology, KKH, said, “Besides the vulnerable babies who benefitted from the breast milk, mothers have commented that the Temasek Foundation Cares Donor Human Milk Bank Programme helps improve their emotional and mental wellness and they are more motivated and able to focus on increasing the production of their own breast milk when they know that their babies are provided with pasteurised donor human milk. This might be a contributing factor to the rise in exclusive breast feeding rate in the neonatal intensive care unit by about 20 per cent.”

Dr Chua added, “We are encouraged that the programme has received such great support from members of the public. The programme aims to recruit some 400 donor mothers to benefit about 900 preterm infants within three years. We are grateful for the support we have been receiving and we would like to thank our enthusiastic and passionate donors. We want to encourage more donors to come forward to help more vulnerable babies and their families.”

Mr Richard Magnus, Chairman, Temasek Foundation Cares, echoes Dr Chua’s sentiments, “We are thankful for the strong support from breastfeeding mothers who have selflessly shared their breast milk, a very precious resource, to benefit many vulnerable and sick babies in the community. We are also heartened that the first year of this pilot has contributed to a significant 57 per cent reduction in the incidence of NEC among the premature babies. We hope more donors can come forward to donate their breast milk for this truly life-supporting cause. Our gratitude also goes to the medical teams in KKH, SGH and NUH, as well as those who have helped one way or other to make this human donor milk bank possible.”

The Temasek Foundation Cares Donor Human Milk Bank Programme adopts international guidelines and protocols established by the United Kingdom National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, and Human Milk Banking Association of North America. These guidelines are comprehensive, well-recognised and widely practiced by well-established donor human milk banks.

Potential donors need to be healthy and lead healthy lifestyles, and will be required to undergo a stringent donor screening process as well as education on the handling and storage of the breast milk prior to donation. Additional information on the criteria for potential donors and the process of donation can be found in Annex A and Annex B, respectively.

The beneficiaries of the programme will need to be Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents born in KKH, SGH and NUH and whose mothers are unable to provide sufficient breast milk; these babies must also meet the following criteria for eligibility:

  • born prematurely at less than 32 weeks of gestation,
  • weighing 1,800 grammes or less at birth and
  • at a high risk of, or diagnosed with necrotising enterocolitis.

Temasek Foundation Cares has committed a total of $1.37 million over a three-year period to the Temasek Foundation Cares Donor Human Milk Programme.

For more information on the programme, mothers may visit www.kkh.com.sg/milkbank, email to milkbank@kkh.com.sg, or call 6394-1986.

Annex A: Criteria of Human Milk Donors

1) Donors must be healthy and not engage in high-risk behaviours

        A woman would not be a suitable donor if she:

  • Uses illegal drugs, tobacco products or smokes
  • Consumes more than three cups of tea, coffee, cola or stimulant soft drinks per day
  • Regularly has more than two ounces of alcohol per day
  • Has received a blood transfusion or blood products in the last four months
  • Has been declined as a blood donor for a medical reason (other than pregnancy or nursing)
  • Has received an organ or tissue transplant in the last 12 months
  • Has a positive blood test result for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B or C, or syphilis or her sexual partner is at risk for HIV
  • Has been in the United Kingdom for more than three months (between 1980-1996)
  • Has been in Europe for more than five years (between 1980- present)
  • Is on regular medications or herbal supplements
  • Had ear or body piercing / a tattoo/ permanent body makeup/ accidental needle stick injury in the past 12 months

2) Donor must agree to blood testing and be free from infectious disease

        The specific panel of blood tests required for donors include the following:

  • HIV 1 and 2 antibody (anti-HIV 1 and anti-HIV 2)
  • Hepatitis C antibody (anti-HCV)
  • Hepatitis B surface antigen (HbsAg)
  • Hepatitis B core antibody (anti-HBc)
  • Syphilis antibody

The above tests meet the international recommendations for human milk banking and the minimum standards for serological testing recommended by the Australasian Tissue Banking Forum.

Annex B: Donor Human Milk Processes at KK Human Milk Bank

The KK Human Milk Bank adheres to strict guidelines and protocols set by the United Kingdom National Institute of Health and Care and Human Milk Banking Association of North America for screening donors, processing and dispensing the donated human milk. Just as for blood, donating milk through a milk bank ensures that it is safe, has been screened for any infections and has been handled and stored in the most appropriate way to protect its nutritional value.

Collection process of donor human milk

Pasteurisation and storage process

The donated human milk undergoes a process called pasteurisation to eliminate any bacteria in the milk while retaining its beneficial and essential components prior to it being dispensed from the bank.

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