• July 9th, 2020

Lactating mothers urged to donate breast milk

WINDHOEK – Breastfeeding mothers are being urged to consider donating their breast milk to the Namibia Breast Milk Bank, the first initiative of its kind in the country.  

The initiative is being led by a nurse and neonatologist who work in the private sector but want to see the lives of many newborn babies, especially those who are premature and whose mothers cannot breastfeed. 

The breastmilk is for infants who weigh below one-and-a-half kilograms and who cannot be fed by their biological mothers either because they are very sick or go to school, explained Professor Clarissa Pieper, a neonatologist.

According to registered nurse Birgit Mayer, “This is the first breast milk bank in Namibia. We give pasteurised human milk to premature babies who weigh below 0.5 kilograms and where the mothers are not self-sufficient to provide their babies with milk. So, we would rather give them human milk than formula milk.” 

She explained that human milk has all the protective agents in it and, therefore, the babies who are fed with breast milk get less infections and it is also much more easily digestible for the babies. 

“We started pasteurising last year in April. Since then the milk was never a problem but of late we struggle to get donor mothers who can provide the milk for us that we can pasteurise,” related Mayer.

Mayer explained that a pasteurising machine was bought in France and is designed for the thermal treatment of human milk by destroying pathogenic microorganisms through heating the milk.  

The initiative has been long coming, however, it only kicked off last year.

The donor mothers have to complete a health questionnaire and then they are sent for blood tests namely HIV and Hepatitis B, explained Pieper. “We then get the milk into the pasturiser. We ask the mothers to express at home and come in to complete a health questionnaire and we take their blood samples to the lab because when they are negative all that milk they expressed is HIV negative so then we’re safe and if they are positive then we can’t use it,” explained Pieper. 

Even though the pesturisation is very safe and it kills the Hepatitis E and HIV they prefer not to take chances, maintained Pieper. “It’s not necessary so it’s double safe,” added Pieper. 

Over 150 babies in private and state health facilities have benefitted from this initiative from last year April when the breast milk bank officially started. 

“At the moment, we also provide Ongwediva Medi-Park where the mothers have insufficient milk,” said Pieper. 

For now, there are no monetary rewards for mothers who donate their breast milk, explained Pieper and Mayer. 
So far they have received sponsorships from Erongo Med, Bank Windhoek, and Ohlthaver & List. 

“Anybody who wants to donate is welcome to contact us. We have got quite a few people who come back to us and who want to donate again and they go through the system,” explained.

The Windhoek Central Hospital takes a lot of milk because they have a lot of premature babies, added Pieper. “A lot of those mothers are either very sick or they go to school,” added Pieper, explaining that a baby weighing 800 grams will die if they are given formula milk. 

“The formula milk is not sterile so they (babies) get bacteria with the formula and their tummies get infections and they die,” explained Pieper. 

Breast milk can be stored for up to six months before it can be discarded, explained Pieper. 

“The most important thing is we give the breastmilk to the small babies. That means if the baby weighs less than one-and-a-half kilograms because they are the ones who are at the highest risk of infection of the gut and blood. Breast milk does not just give food, it gives a lot of antibodies- immuno-globulins, which help the babies to stop infections,” Pieper stressed. 

Sharing breast milk among babies is nothing new, explained Pieper and Mayer. “What do you do if you don’t have enough breast milk? Traditionally, women would ask their sisters or somebody else in the village to breastfeed their babies if for whatever reason they could not,” said Piper. 

She added: “We still have that every now and then that there is somebody in the family who helps with that. Ten years ago, a baby weighing 800 grams was left to die, but they are no longer being left to die and they are surviving. 

“As long as potential donors have got a few litres of milk that they can give and it’s frozen and we can test them afterward,” replied Pieper when asked on how much breast milk potential mothers could donate.  

They also emphasised on hygiene saying mothers who wish to donate breast milk should maintain hygiene while expressing the milk. 

“We had to get the pasturiser from France but Erongo Med also helped in this regard. 

Alvine Kapitako
2019-05-27 10:19:07 | 1 years ago

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