Cape Town - A new report states that as many as 95 babies could be saved every hour if mothers started breast-feeding their newborns immediately after birth.
The report, “Superfood for Babies”, was released by NGO Save the Children.
It stated that if newborns received colostrum – the mother’s first milk – within an hour of birth, it kick-started the child’s immune system, making the child three times more likely to survive.
It said if mothers were encouraged to breast-feed, it would further reduce child mortality, especially in the developing world.
Save the Children chief executive Justin Forsyth said: “Despite the benefits of breast-feeding being widely known in the developed world, and it being a free, natural way to protect a newborn baby, too little attention is being paid to help moms breast-feed in poorer countries.”
When mothers are severely ill, they are not always able to provide their babies with breast milk. In other cases babies may be abandoned. This is when donor breast milk can provide a lifeline for these vulnerable infants.
Cape Town-based Milk Matters collects and supplies breast milk to these babies.
Elizabeth Brierley, who works from the NGOs offices at the Mowbray Maternity Hospital, said the Save the Children report was important.
Milk Matters had been operating for 10 years and had 17 depots across the province where donors could drop off their frozen breast milk.
Brierley said potential donors were screened before they could donate. “Then the milk will be processed and pasteurised and we take samples for micro-testing to make sure there are no micro-organisms in it, she said.
Over the past 10 years Milk Matters had reached 1 000 donors and potentially fed one million premature infants. Brierley said Milk Matters was constantly looking for people to donate milk and open more milk banks in their areas.