Breast milk reserves have reached critically low levels.
This according to the South African breast milk reserve (SABR), which issued an urgent call for donations, reports Pretoria East Rekord.
“We’ve seen so much success in hospitals where we supply donated breastmilk and it is ironic that after World Prematurity Day (November 17), our stock is running critically low,” said SABR executive director Stasha Jordan.
“While a mother’s own milk is essential for the survival of a premature baby, donated breast milk is often given when a mother’s milk is not available.”
“We urge everyone to spread the message calling for breast milk donations.”
Jordan said mothers of premature babies might be unable to supply the required volume of milk, which meant more donated milk was needed.
Paediatrics emeritus professor Suzanne Delport said premature births were 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. 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 five years of age.”
Delport said premature babies who survived also faced 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.”
Breast milk 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,” said Jordan.
In February of this year, Kalafong hospital launched a revamped state-of-the-art breast milk bank.
The facility, launched by hospital CEO Dr Manei Letebele-Hartell on behalf of Gauteng MEC for health Dr Gwen Ramokgopa, has helped save more than 4,000 infant lives over the past decade.
Kalafong was the first public sector hospital where SABR launched a milk bank 11 years ago.
The launch of the revamped facility was part of the pregnancy awareness week, which was between February 10-16.