Vietnam on Thursday launched the country’s first official human milk bank at a hospital in Da Nang, using donations from women giving birth there.
The project at Da Nang Ob-gyn and Pediatrics Hospital will collect milk under a strict procedure including selecting healthy donors and sterilizing the milk before delivery, according to officials from the health ministry.
Tran Thi Hoang, deputy director of the hospital, said around 15,000 babies are born there every year but not all of their mothers can feed them with breast milk, either due to their own health condition or their baby's condition. In some other cases, the babies are abandoned after birth, or their mothers die.
Nguyen Duc Vinh, head of the Mothers and Children Health Department at the health ministry, said the bank is an important achievement in newborn healthcare in Vietnam.
While the ministry’s Da Nang milk bank is its first, there have been others initiated by parents to pick up the breastfeeding rate in Vietnam.
A survey in 2014 showed that the percentage of infants under six months exclusively breastfed increased from 17 to 24 percent from 2009.
Trinh Quoc Tuan, a young father whose wife died a week after delivering their first daughter due to complications in childbirth, started a milk bank three years ago, after he was inspired by milk donations offered to his baby.
His project with offices in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi has since received donations from 12,000 mothers. He has become the Good Will Ambassador to the World Health Organization’s breastfeeding campaign, which is held every year between August 1 and 8.
The breastfeeding rate in Vietnam has remained low in recent years. The government has tried to change that by increasing maternity leave from four to six months and issuing a ban on advertisements of formula products for children under two.