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The Nippon Foundation Human Milk Bank Established to Save the Lives of Preterm Infants [2022年05月28日(Sat)]
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Speaking at a press conference on March 16, 2022, to announce the establishment of The Nippon Foundation Human Milk Bank.


The Nippon Foundation Human Milk Bank has been established in Tokyo to save the lives and contribute to the healthy growth of preterm or very low birth weight (VLBW) infants weighing less than 1,500 grams.

The milk bank went into operation on April 1 by collecting donor human milk from mothers who produce more than their babies need. It then pasteurizes and stores the milk in medical freezers and provides it upon request to preterm or VLBW infants hospitalized in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).

This is the second such milk bank in Japan following the one run by the Japan Human Milk Bank Association. Worldwide, there are more than 750 milk banks in 50 countries, and some countries have even incorporated them into their national health care systems.

In Japan, about 7,000 preterm or VLBW infants are born every year. Of these, an estimated 5,000 babies are said to need donor breast milk.

The Nippon Foundation Human Milk Bank aims to secure a constant supply of more than 5,000 liters of appropriately pasteurized donor milk−the amount required to help meet the annual needs of those 5,000 babies in Japan together with the Japan Human Milk Bank Association.

It also measures and analyzes the nutritional value of donor milk and the amount of biologically active substances that are effective for tube feeding those infants, thereby trying to establish a research system that can provide tailor-made best-match donor milk for each recipient. When realized, it will be a world first.

Premature babies often cannot get breast milk from their mothers. In such cases, donor milk is used to bridge the gap until infants can breastfeed.

Nowadays, premature babies weighing less than 1,000 grams at birth can be saved. Donor milk plays a role in helping to develop the intestines of preterm or VLBW infants and enables the babies to mature as quickly as possible and ensure that they grow up healthy. Breast milk feeding can increase the immunity of premature infants and significantly reduce the incidence of the severe gut disorder called necrotizing enterocolitis, a leading cause of death in premature babies along with chronic lung disease and retinopathy of prematurity.

At a press conference to announce the inauguration of The Nippon Foundation Human Milk Bank on March16, its president Katsumi Mizuno, who is also a professor at Showa University's School of Medicine, said he welcomed the establishment of the new milk bank, noting there have been cases in the past in which donors wanting to register with the Japan Human Milk Bank Association had to be turned away due to a lack of storage capacity.

“We need more hospitals and clinics to work with the human milk bank to handle donor milk. I want everyone to know that donated milk can help reduce the risk of low birth weight babies becoming seriously ill,” he said.

Mr. Takumi Nemoto, former Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare and currently chairman of the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives, said: “Getting to know the activities of Professor Mizuno, I strongly felt as a statesman the importance of supporting the human milk bank. I am hopeful that it will tackle a crisis in pediatrics we are facing in our country.”

In my remarks, I said that The Nippon Foundation has undertaken various projects supporting children, upon whom the future of the country depends, adding: “This human milk bank is one such signature project that we are pushing ahead with”

There are about 250 hospitals across Japan that can take in preterm or VLBW infants to be hospitalized in NICUs. But I learned that donor milk has so far been delivered to only 50 of them due mainly to the lack of hospitals that register donors and handle donated milk.

I sincerely hope that the establishment of the milk bank will encourage more mothers to be interested in donating their breast milk and more hospitals and clinics to deliver such donated milk to save those vulnerable premature infants.


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At a press conference on March 16, 2022, to announce the establishment of The Nippon Foundation Human Milk Bank. From left, the author, the milk bank’s president Katsumi Mizuno, its senior researcher Miori Tanaka, its midwife Satomi Hitomi, its executive director Mari Tanaka, and Mr. Takumi Nemoto, former Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare.


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The exterior of The Nippon Foundation Human Milk Bank.


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The human milk bank room is capable of storing more than 5,000 liters of adequately pasteurized donor breast milk, making it the largest such facility in Japan.


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The human milk laboratory aims at establishing a research system that can provide tailor-made best-match donor milk to each recipient for the first time in the world.


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The lounge where midwives brief prospective milk donors on how to register and give guidance on milking properly.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 06:27 | ENHANCING COMMUNITIES | URL | comment(0)