Dr Chua Mei Chien (first row, left), Director, KKHMB, KKH, Dr Pooja Agarwal Jayagobi (first row, right), Consultant, Department of Neonatology, KKH and Ms Wong Anng Anng (third row, first from right), Senior Milk Bank Coordinator, KKHMB, KKH, with the rest of the KK Human Milk Bank team.

 

A team of clinicians and coordinators from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) have been awarded the National Clinical Excellence Team Award at the National Medical Excellence Awards (NMEA) 2020, for establishing the national Donor Human Milk Bank programme and the KK Human Milk Bank (KKHMB) – Singapore’s only donor human milk bank.

In recognition of their contributions towards benefiting premature and critically-ill babies in Singapore, Dr Chua Mei Chien, Director, KKHMB, KKH; Dr Pooja Agarwal Jayagobi, Consultant, Department of Neonatology, KKH and Ms Wong Anng Anng, Senior Milk Bank Coordinator, KKHMB, KKH, clinched the sole team award for NMEA 2020.

The KKHMB has received strong public support since its launch, benefiting more than 1,910 recipients and with 720 mothers donating their excess breast milk, as at October 2020.

“The exclusive use of human milk in the vulnerable neonatal population in KKH has increased dramatically from the baseline of less than 20 per cent to 97 per cent, and correspondingly, the incidence of necrotising enterocolitis has drastically reduced from 5.8 per cent in very low birth weight infants to no cases in 2018,” says Dr Chua, who is also Head and Senior Consultant, Department of Neonatology, KKH.

“We are grateful for generous donors who have come forward to support our cause of benefiting vulnerable infants and offering hope to families, providing every infant with the best start to lead a healthy and fulfilling life.”.”

 

Donor Human Milk Saves Babies’ Lives

Every year, nearly 2,000 neonates with complex medical and surgical conditions are managed at KKH, the nation’s largest perinatal centre. The KKHMB was launched in August 2017 to provide a ready supply of safe pasteurised donor human milk (PDHM) for premature and critically ill babies when their mothers’ own milk is insufficient.

This has helped to significantly reduce the length of hospital stay and total medical bill size of these patients. Mothers of recipients have also reported a better sense of well-being knowing that PDHM offers better outcomes for their babies. With the milk bank working closely with the lactation service in the hospital, mothers of recipients also report feeling better supported in their endeavour to breastfeed, with many managing to increase their own milk supply.

 

Maintaining a steady supply of donor human milk amidst COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, in anticipation of a decline in human milk donations and concerns from donors and recipients about the safety of donor human milk, the KKHMB team implemented pre-emptive measures to maintain a healthy reserve of two months’ supply of PDHM throughout the national circuit breaker period (from April to June 2020).

In spite of a decrease in the number of donors per month due to deferred donor recruitment, the amount of donor human milk contributed increased, averaging at about 30 litres per donor from April to July 2020, compared to about 20 litres per donor before the pandemic.

Beyond Singapore, the KKHMB has received regional healthcare interest in the successful implementation of the programme. An additional grant from Temasek Foundation has also been secured in July 2019, enabling the milk bank to grow its capacity to provide PDHM to patients up to 12 months of age with a broader range of conditions and even after their discharge from hospital.