As the mom of a preemie myself, I'll always have a soft spot for mothers who donate breastmilk to families who need it.
And during these scary months of the Covid-19 pandemic, this donor breastmilk is even more necessary.
I spoke to Jenny Wright, CEO of Milk Matters in Cape Town, to find out how things are going during the lockdown.
She told me that thankfully moms are continuing to donate.
"We have been trying to raise awareness so as to ensure milk donations continue and we are able to maintain and hopefully increase our supply," she said.
Wright also revealed that as with everything else to do with the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisation does not know quite what to expect either in terms of donations of donor milk or the need for donor milk, "but early indications are that we are going to need significantly more donor milk during this time."
She added that it is heartwarming to see that in the midst of the stress of the pandemic moms are reaching out wanting to help the preemies by donating their breast milk.
Milk banking is an essential service
"Naturally there is concern amongst the moms that we may not be operational, so they are pleased to hear milk banking is safe to continue and is an essential service - and so is donating breast milk!"
Wright explained that mothers who are concerned about how to get their donor milk to Milk Matters, need not worry, as most of Milk Matters depots continue to be open as they are in pharmacies, clinics and doctor's rooms, which are also essential services.
"This means registered donor mothers can drop off their donations of breast milk and collect sterile containers, and we are very grateful that there are moms willing to go out to do this," she told me.
"If donors have concerns they are urged to chat to us about them so we can answer their questions or make alternative plans wherever we can," she urges our readers.
"We need more moms to donate though, as we are worried about being able to keep up with the demand for donor milk," she added.
An increase in demand
Wright said the organisation has already seen a marked increase in the need for donor breast milk. What will happen in this regard in the weeks and months to come remains to be seen, she said, but if anything they are likely to need more donor milk.
One reason for the increase in demand is that due to a lack of available beds not all mothers are able to stay in hospital with their premature babies, but now more than ever, with the current economic situation, there will be mothers who cannot afford to come in daily or even frequently to visit their babies and bring their own breast milk.
These very low birth weight, very premature babies may then need donor milk when there is insufficient mother's own milk available.
"We therefore need more moms to donate so that we can supply as many premature babies in need as possible. Having said that, it is important to be clear that, as always, we are only asking for breast milk that is in excess of a mom's own baby's need," Wright explained.
Much as the preemies need donor breast milk, breast milk is so important for all babies and in this pandemic period, the irreplaceable protection provided by breastfeeding should not be underestimated, she stressed.
A silver lining
From the donor mothers' side, donors are telling Wright how glad they are that they can do something to help others at this time, and especially for babies since they are moms with babies themselves.
She said they mention how they feel so much for the moms who have had the stress of having a premature baby and on top of that have the stress of the coronavirus pandemic too.
"A silver lining for some donor moms is finding that being home during lockdown and able to breastfeed their baby, instead of leaving expressed breast milk for during working hours, has increased their supply sufficiently to allow them to donate breast milk," she added.
"Donating their breast milk means a lot to our donor mothers. For the recipient babies and their families access to donor milk can be a game-changer. A life-line in fact," Wright told me.
Two important messages are that milk banking can safely continue - and needs to do so - during the Covid-19 pandemic and that expressing breast milk for donation is one way of saving lives from the safety of your own home during lockdown.
A ray of hope in a dark time!
"Sadly however much we try, there are moms who do not know they can donate their breast milk and they are throwing it away when there is a huge need for it," Wright told us.
"Even if you have just 50ml a day to spare, that is enough to save a life. And please call us before throwing out your freezer stash!"
If you are able to donate breast milk visit:
Milk Matters (Cape Town)
Ithemba Lethu (Durban)
Or find your nearest milk bank here: www.sabr.org.za
A number of State hospitals and a few private hospitals have their own in-house milk banks too.
Share with us:
Have you donated breastmilk or was your baby a recipient of donated breastmilk?
What was the reason and what was the outcome?
Share your story by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org and we could publish your letter.
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