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Breastmilk reserves critically low

Wednesday, 20th November 2019

With the spotlight on World Prematurity Day (observed on 17 November), the South African Breastmilk Reserve (SABR) has issued an urgent call for breastmilk donations as reserves run critically low.

While a mother’s own milk is essential for the survival of a premature baby, donated breastmilk is often given when a mother’s milk is not available. “We’ve seen so much success in hospitals where we supply donated breastmilk and it is ironic that after World Prematurity Day our stock is running critically low,” says Stasha Jordan, SABR Executive Director. “We urge everyone to spread the message calling for breastmilk donations,” she continues.

Of the annual 1 million births in South Africa, around one in ten babies is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed and are premature.* If these babies’ mothers are unable to supply the required volume of milk, additional donated breast milk is essential.   

According to Paediatrics Emeritus Professor, Suzanne Delport, “Premature births are the result of a variety of mostly unpreventable reasons. However, caesarean sections being scheduled too early without sound medical reasoning is a preventable factor that has become a trend in the private sector and we must urge against such behaviour.”

“Complications of prematurity are the most common cause of death in the first 28 days of life as well as deaths in children under 5 years of age,” says Delport. “Premature babies who survive also face an increased risk of cerebral palsy, delayed neurodevelopment, and other long-term negative health effects. We need to do our best to ensure these babies get all the help that they need to stand a fighting chance of survival.”

Breastmilk has been called the best nourishment for premature babies, providing nutrients that weren’t transferred during the shortened gestation period. “While it is quite a sacrifice for a mother, who is already breastfeeding her own baby, to spend additional time and energy expressing milk for donation, it is not done in vain. She is a hero,” concludes Jordan.