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Babies have rights too

Tuesday, 1st March 2016


As South Africans celebrate Human Rights Day on 21 March 2016, the South African Breastmilk Reserve (SABR) urges communities not to forget babies’ rights. “Babies cannot stand up and protest when their rights are violated and they cannot speak for themselves, but they have rights just like the rest of us,” says Stasha Jordan, breastfeeding activist and executive director of SABR.

“We urge communities to educate one another about the basic rights babies and children have, enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The right to a name, care, basic nutrition, shelter, health care and social services. There’s also the right for children to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation,” says Jordan.

Talking specifically about the right to basic nutrition, Jordan says that the healthiest and most economical diet for babies is to be breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life. “Research shows that breastfeeding is nutritionally superior to formula,” says Jordan. A new report* in the Lancet medical journal, published in January this year, states that the lives of 823 000 children worldwide under the age of five could be saved annually, and about 20 000 breast cancer deaths could be prevented, if every child was breastfed. The researchers described breastmilk as a ‘personalised medicine for infants.’

Jordan adds that when babies are born prematurely or are admitted to hospital with various complications, breastmilk is even more critical for their survival. “We have seen the great effect breastmilk has had on survival rates in the hospitals where SABR distributes donated breastmilk. We aim to create greater awareness of this vital need in our communities; we can only reach more premature and sick babies at more hospitals if people understand how important breastmilk is,” explains Jordan.

SABR collects and redistributes donated breastmilk throughout a network comprising of 87 participating Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) in hospitals around the country. The donated breastmilk is fed to Very Low Birth Weight (VLBW) babies that are unable to breastfeed normally and whose mothers struggle to lactate due to maternal complications. These babies desperately require the perfect mix of nutrients contained in breastmilk as it helps them to better fight infections and reach normal stages of development. “Breastfeeding mothers who have excess supply are encouraged to donate breastmilk at SABR centres. These donations play a key role in saving babies’ lives and protecting their rights,” concludes Jordan.


To get involved and alleviate the challenges faced by the SABR, including low breastfeeding rates in South Africa, sourcing donor mothers, and funding for the operation of the milk-banks, please visit or call 011 482 1920 or e-mail: