Expanding access to breast milk for premature babies
An estimated 150,000 babies are born prematurely in South Africa every year. Prematurity weakens babies’ immune systems leaving them vulnerable to life-threatening diseases, life-long health conditions as well as hospital-acquired infections.
Breastmilk is essential for these babies to survive and thrive. However, for a range of reasons, their mothers are frequently unable to provide breastmilk of their own. In these instances, donor breastmilk can be life-saving.
Very little milk is required to nourish such tiny infants:
• 50 ml of donor breastmilk can feed a 1 kg baby for 24 hours
• 1 litre of donor breastmilk can feed 21 premature babies for 24 hours
7 days a week, 365 days a year, community-based breastmilk bank Milk Matters distributes donor breast milk to nourish premature babies weighing less than 1.5kg.
However, the demands for donor breastmilk exceed Milk Matters’ current capacity to deliver:
Despite distributing almost 1 500 litres of donor breast milk to 750 babies in hospitals across the Western Cape during 2015, demand exceeded available supply to the extent that at times infants as small as 1.2 kg could not be supported.
This project aims to expand Milk Matters’ services over a period of three years. Milk Matters will be able to grow its services to make at least 45% more donor breastmilk per month available to hospitals by the end of the project period, and to reach over 3000 premature babies with this life-saving ‘medicine’.
The Children’s Hospital Trust has committed to raising R3.9 million for this programme.