Milk help for babies

2015-05-27 07:57

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WITH two facilities in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal is leading the way in establishing human milk banks, which attempt to curb the infant mortality rate in the province.

Grey’s and Edendale hospitals are the first to take up the initiative in Pietermaritzburg.

A study this year on infant mortality showed that 31 infants die of every 1 000 born in KZN.

The Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2000 stipulated that there should be fewer than 20 deaths per 1 000 by 2015.

In an attempt to reach this goal, the KZN Health Department, in partnership with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), established human milk banks so that orphaned and premature babies, and those with mothers too sick to breastfeed, can access breast milk.

KZN has led the way in responding to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s call for human milk banks to be set up throughout the country, with five already up and running in the province and six more to be opened soon.

The banks are run according to internationally accepted guidelines to ensure the safety of vulnerable babies.

Potential donors undergo a health screening and are then given sterile jars into which their milk is expressed.

The milk is tested, pasteurised and frozen, ready to be supplied to babies in need.

The human milk banks act as central processing banks, with clinics and hospitals forwarding donated breast milk to them so that it can be pasteurised and frozen.

To get the breast milk, it has to be prescribed by a doctor and is available free of charge.

Leonore Spies, director of the Integrated Nutrition Programme at the KZN Health Department, said exclusive breastfeeding is the single most important thing a parent can do for a child.

“About 90% start breastfeeding in hospital, but they do not sustain it. The culture is mixed feeding — you get breast milk combined with formula, tea and water,” Spies said.

A Marianhill woman, Khanyi Nzama, was one of the first donors of breast milk after the banks were established last year. Nzama estimated that she fed 26 babies a day last year.

Every day, she expressed 260 ml of breast milk and delivered it to the local human milk bank.

“I went to the hospital and I saw how some of these sick babies took 10 ml in two hours. So I was not only feeding my own baby, I was also helping to feed another 26 children,” Nzama said.

“I want to encourage all mothers to breastfeed and to donate milk.”

— Witness Reporter

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