Breast cancer

28 July 2008

Breastmilk banks help babies

The first week in August is World Breastfeeding Week, and it's the perfect time to brush up your knowledge on this life-saving practice.

The benefits of breastfeeding are advocated throughout the world by every professional health body imaginable. During the first week of August these benefits will be highlighted even more than usual as the world celebrates World Breastfeeding Week.

“Breastfeeding provides advantages to the general health, growth and development of an infant while significantly decreasing the risk for a large number of acute and chronic diseases,” says Nellie Koen, National Coordinator of Netcare’s Stork’s Nest. “But there are several more advantages to breastfeeding which can be linked to socio-economic factors, especially in developing countries.”

After giving birth many mothers these days choose not to breastfeed for differing reasons. Yet there are also those who cannot breastfeed, however much they may want to, due to complications resulting from, amongst others, trauma or HIV.

Important for premature babies
“One of the areas in paediatric care where the importance of breast milk becomes an imperative rather than a choice is with premature babies,” says Koen. “It is essential for premature babies to receive breast milk in order to prevent Necrotic Entero Colitis (NEC). However, not all mothers are able to produce breast milk for their newborns. This is why we want to place specific emphasis on the South African Breastmilk Reserve’s ‘breastmilk banks’, which we have set up in four of our hospitals, and the ‘Feed for Life’ initiative that has resulted from it.”

Koen explains: “Through the ‘Feed for Life’ initiative we are able to share pasteurised breastmilk from lactating mothers with babies who are unable to access breast milk from their own mothers. Mothers whose babies spend some time in the neonatal ICU (NICU) are encouraged and supported to express breastmilk for their babies. However, these infants only require small quantities of the milk and, upon their release, the leftover breastmilk in the hospital’s freezers can be put to better use rather than being thrown away.”

The ‘leftover’ pasteurised breastmilk from participating mothers, who have donated the excess milk, is therefore made available for other babies in the NICU or other hospitals - public or private. The donated breastmilk is pasteurised according to strict medical protocols and guidelines to ensure that the milk is delivered safely to the babies in need, whilst the ‘Feed for Life’ initiative is supported by the SARB.

Available in the private and public sectors
Four private Hospitals currently have breastmilk banks where lactating mothers wishing to donate breast milk can do so and Netcare has formed partnerships with the public health sector and excess pasteurised breastmilk from the in-hospital human milk banks at these hospitals are shared with their nearest public hospitals.

Anyone interested in learning more about breastfeeding, or who find themselves in need of advice, can call Netcare’s customer call centre for precise information about what the Netcare hospital nearest to them will be getting up to during World Breastfeeding Week. The number is 0860 NETCARE (0860 638 2273), or an email can be sent to

Source: Netcare

Read more:
ABC of breastfeeding
Why breast is best

July 2008


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Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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