Indian Mother donating Breast Milk amid Pandemic

An Indian mother from Mumbai has been donating her breast milk amid the pandemic and despite the stigma around the subject.

Indian Mother donating Breast Milk amid Pandemic f

“I then decided that I will keep donating at least for a year.”

An Indian mother has revealed that she has been donating her breast milk to save babies amid the pandemic and will continue to do so, despite the taboo surrounding breastfeeding.

In early 2020, after having her child, Nidhi Parmar Hiranandani, a resident of Mumbai, realised she had too much breast milk stored away but lying unused.

Nidhi said: “My home freezer kept filling up

“And I had read on the internet that breast milk goes bad after three-four months in a home freezer. By then, I had about three packets of 150 ml each, waiting to be used.”

She approached friends and family who gave different suggestions. Some said she could make face packs while others said they had bathed their babies in it. Some said they just threw it away.

“There are also salons who use it to make creams.

“But I found these ideas very silly and wanted my breast milk to have a better use.”

Whilst on the internet, the 42-year-old filmmaker discovered breast milk donations in the US so she started looking for donation centres in India.

She was eventually recommended Surya Hospital in Khar, Mumbai.

However, the nationwide lockdown hit in March 2020. The hospital assured her a zero-contact pick-up from her doorstep.

Since May 2020, the Indian mother has donated around 42 litres of milk to the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the Surya Hospital, where a lot of babies there are underweight and premature, often put in incubators without their mothers.

Nidhi told VICE: “I went to the hospital very recently to finally see how my donation is being used, and I saw around 60 babies who really needed milk.

“I then decided that I will keep donating at least for a year.”

Data on infants with low birth weight is not effectively tracked in India, but available studies show that there is a high prevalence of Indian children under five-years-old being malnourished.

India has hospitals with human milk banks to help out babies, but there is not much awareness.

Mumbai-based gynaecologist Dr Munjaal V Kapadia said:

“You’ll find these donation banks if you go looking for them. But most people don’t even know they have the option to donate breast milk.

“That’s usually the first and the biggest hurdle: not knowing.”

The subject is also considered taboo in India. Dr Kapadia added:

“But there is a social stigma that has more to do with people feeling icky about taking someone else’s breast milk.

“Our society is also a little regressive when it comes to things like this.”

Discussions about breast milk and donating it is rare. Dr Kapadia explained:

“Firstly, not many new mothers know about breast milk, especially those in their first pregnancies.

“Their first source of information, more than family and friends, is the internet.

“People tend to talk about breastfeeding or breast milk donations in close-knit circles, but as a society, we don’t talk about it at all.”

The Indian mother also revealed that she was subject to awkward silences when she spoke about breast milk donation.

Nidhi said: “I was discussing with a family member about talking to the media about my donation, and she said, ‘How can you talk about this in public?’

“I asked her what the stigma or trauma around this is because it’s just breast milk. But then she realised she was being silly.

“We don’t realise the kind of biases we are brought up with.

“It becomes so inherent. There are people who think they can’t talk about it but once I have discussions with them, they actually wonder why they’re feeling so shy about talking about it. What’s the big deal?”

Dhiren is a journalism graduate with a passion for gaming, watching films and sports. He also enjoys cooking from time to time. His motto is to “Live life one day at a time.”