Updated 29 October 2015

Good news: more breast milk banks are opening up in SA

Kuruman is set to open the latest breast milk bank in the wake of renewed calls to promote breastfeeding in South Africa.

Following a 2011 decision by Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi to stop providing free formula milk and to promote exclusive breastfeeding for all mothers, breast milk banks have been on the rise.

Kuruman’s Tshwaragano District Hospital is set to become home to South Africa’s latest human breast milk bank as another bank is reportedly slated to open in Limpopo.

Read: Why you should donate breast milk

According to the Northern Cape Department of Health, the initiative piloted with the help of the international health organisation PATH will help improve infant nutrition. PATH will be working to create awareness about the programme as well as recruit new mums as donors who will be screened for HIV and other illnesses prior to screening, according to PATH district mentor Ronelle Khumalo.  Khumalo was speaking at a recent Women’s Health Dialogue.

Fridges in which to store the milk have already been ordered for the hospital. The milk is expected to help children including orphaned and sick infants, as well as babies who might live with guardians, such as grandmothers, who are not their biological mothers.

The breast milk bank is located in the John Taolo Gaetsewe health district, where about 13 percent of children under the age of five admitted for severe malnutrition died last year, according to the recently released District Health Barometer.

According to PATH, the organisation will also be partnering with the Department of Health to establish support groups for breastfeeding moms to discuss issues surrounding breast feeding. Fathers will be encouraged to attend.

Read: Positions for breastfeeding

In August, SABC reported that a breast milk bank has also been planned for Limpopo’s Mankweng Hospital in Polokwane.

The rising number of breast milk banks across the country is a product of renewed calls to promote breastfeeding in South Africa.

After South Africa reportedly charted some of the lowest rates of exclusive breastfeeding in the world, Motsoaledi took a 2011 decision to stop providing free formula milk and to promote exclusive breastfeeding for all mothers, including those living with HIV provided they were on antiretroviral treatment.

International agencies such as UNICEF have supported the shift pointing out that infant formula lacks essential nutrients and antibodies to protect children from illnesses like diarrhoea and pneumonia. Exclusive breastfeeding also reduces the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission in comparison to mixed feeding, or when mothers feed babies both breast milk and solids like porridge.  – Health-e News.

Also read:

Online breast milk trading carries serious health risks

Breast-feeding may protect infants against obesity

More evidence breast-feeding lowers child's risk of allergies, infection

Image: Mother’s breast milk in bottles from iStock


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