Breastfeeding advocates urge moms to plan ahead and donate
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Cape Town - Raising donations for human milk banking becomes very difficult without a strong culture of breastfeeding, says Dr Chantelle Witten, nutrition lead at the South African Civil Society for Women’s, Adolescents’ and Children’s Health.
“As breastfeeding advocates, we recognise the gaps in scaling-up efforts for the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding. Without a strong culture of breastfeeding, raising donations for human milk banking becomes very difficult,” Witten said.
“We realise that education and support of new mothers as well as the upskilling of healthcare professionals to promote and support breastfeeding is imperative as an on-going activity because breastfeeding is an everyday practice requiring skilled support.
“Our role as breastfeeding advocates and health educators is key to maintaining mother and baby friendly values both in the health system and at the community level.”
She and the South African Breastmilk Reserve, a not-for-profit human milk-banking organisation, are highlighting the efforts of health officials in raising awareness of the importance of breastfeeding to encourage mothers to seek help early to overcome breastfeeding challenges and difficulties.
“What we have learnt from recent events in KZN is that formula-dependent mothers experienced additional trauma in what is an ongoing Covid-19 pandemic by not having formula milk,” said SA Breastmilk Reserve executive director Stasha Jordan.
The organisation said large volumes of formula looted from the shops, together with the influx of infant formula donations, threatened breastfeeding gains made since the withdrawal of free milk formula through the programme for the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV in 2011.
A positive that came out of the events was when a call was made to the organisation for breast milk donations and interested parties rallied together to make it happen.
“An emergency stakeholder group was formed to raise donations of breast milk for affected areas. This emergency stakeholder group ignited a strong network of lactation consultants, human milk bankers, healthcare professionals and policymakers to co-ordinate and co-operate in promoting breastfeeding and advocacy for breastfeeding as the public health strategy to protect children in extreme situations when food insecurity is compromised.
“The emergency stakeholder group was instrumental in activating a breast milk drive that resulted in the collection of 100 units of breast milk in support of iThembaLethu breast milk bank and through the group transport and volunteers rallied to get the breast milk from Johannesburg to the facility in Durban,” said Jordan.
The organisation added that in times of food insecurity, “it is imperative that we protect, promote and support breastfeeding to ensure that infants and children have a secured and sustained food source at the mother’s breast”.
The UN’s nutrition targets for 2025 calls on signatory countries to reach a local level of at least 50% exclusive breastfeeding for all infants less than six months.
More about SABR can be found at: https://www.sabr.org.za.