NWU calls on breast feeding mothers to help save premmies
World Prematurity Day is celebrated annually on 17 November as a worldwide event to create awareness about prematurity. One in every 10 babies arrive early - before 37 weeks of pregnancy is completed. According to Prof Welma Lubbe, a researcher and academic at the North-West University’s (NWU’s) School of Nursing Science, one of the most effective interventions to deal with prematurity is human milk banking.
“This is a bank (similar to a blood bank), were mothers can donate excess breast milk, which is then pasteurised and given to tiny premature babies whose mothers may not have milk immediately following birth. This milk is also regarded as the premature baby´s first medication and is saving lives, since it prevents life threatening conditions such as Necrotizing Entero Colitis or dying of the gut and has many other benefits in the long run,” she says.
In Potchefstroom, a human milk bank has been established during 2012 with the support of the South African Breast milk Reserve. The breast milk bank had to effect that all mothers at Potchefstroom hospital are breastfeeding their own babies and no more formula is given to babies. In addition mothers have excess milk which they donate and this is made available to babies in the private hospitals in the area, which do not have their own banks, but act as collection corners. Currently the bank has 13 dedicated milk donors and great dedicated staff members who takes responsibility for pasteurising and storing of the milk.
Mothers who are breastfeeding are invited to express some additional milk once a day and donate this to the Potchefstroom breast milk bank and help save the lives of our very tiny babies from all walks of life. Lizelle Payne is the bank coordinator and can be contacted on 083 748 0757.
Prof Lubbe remains a dedicated academic involved with improving the quality of life of premature babies and their parents, especially through research related to breastfeeding during prematurity. She says each year, about 15 million babies – which are about 10% of all babies – are born prematurely around the world. “Diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity increase the risk of giving birth prematurely.”
The colour associated with World Prematurity Day is purple and this year the theme is 10 pairs of socks on a washing line and one of them being extra tiny, illustrating prematurity.