Free breast milk for premature babies in North West
Premature babies that do not have access to breast milk can soon benefit from a breast milk bank that will be opened in Potchefstroom.
According to Dr Welma Lubbe from the School of Nursing on the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University (NWU), this breast milk bank is the first of its kind in the province and is a joint initiative of the NWU and the provincial government of North West. “The bank will render a service, which entails that mother’s milk is collected from women that have breast milk in excess and is then donated to hospitals where premature babies do not have access to breast milk. It often happens that mothers of premature babies are not yet able to lactate, or are ill and cannot breast-feed immediately. The only solution was formula milk.”
Dr Welma is of the opinion that it is common knowledge that breast milk contains the best and most nutritional value and that it also serves as a medicine and not just food. “It is hugely beneficial for the baby when they can be fed with breast milk. It could even save the baby’s life. Many parents tend to quickly change to formula milk, which is made from cow’s milk. It is unnatural for the human body and is regarded as a foreign substance.”
With the opening of the breast milk bank, parents can now offer their babies only the best. The process will entail that women store their milk in plastic bottles and freeze it. The breast milk bank will then collect it, pasteurise it and do the necessary tests for, amongst others, HIV/Aids or tuberculosis. Once it meets all the requirements, it is frozen at the breast milk bank and distributed to hospitals in the province.
“For the fact that especially premature babies’ intestines can be easily perforated and diseases absorbed in the blood stream, breast milk acts as a lubricant that seals the stomach wall and keeps out toxins,” says Dr Welma.
Breast milk is a vital substance and like blood, is also regulated by legislation. It states, amongst others, that breast milk may not be sold, but only donated. “Women who want to donate breast milk can soon contact the breast milk bank at the Potchefstroom Hospital. We have identified a service provider that will set up the project and train the necessary staff. A coordinator will also be appointed that will be tasked to collect and distribute the milk and to launch initiatives to collect more milk. We plan events for donating milk, similar to blood donation events.”
Dr Welma says only premature babies will benefit from the breast milk bank due to the scarcity of mother’s milk.
The North West government has already made funds available and according to Dr Welma, the breast milk bank will soon open its doors. A date for training has already been identified and once it is completed, the project’s activities can start.
Dr Welma Lubbe.