Cape Town- Bikers are among the most community-minded of people, always ready to help the most vulnerable members of society. But this initiative, with the unlikely-sounding name Mother’s Own Milk on the Move, goes even further, linking a very special group of riders with arguably the most at-risk group of all: prematurely born infants.

Neo-natal specialists have known for years that the very best chance of survival for a premature baby is its mothers own milk, containing exactly the right combination of nutrients to help build a body that should have been built in the womb and exactly the right antibodies to help stave off infection. Even premature infants too young to swallow can be fed their mothers’ milk by tube, while in an incubator, until they’re strong enough to get it at source.

And therein lies the rub: while the infants may spend up to three months or more in the world-renowned neo-natal unit at Groote Schuur hospital, their mothers have to get back to the business of survival in a world where maternity leave usually means you won’t have a job to go back to - if you had one in the first place.

And for mothers whose homes are in the vast townships of the Cape Flats, merely getting to Groote Schuur hospital every day to feed their premature infants, or to express milk for tube feeding, is a logistical impossibility.

Making a plan 

Which is where Linlee Solms of motorcycle training programme Scully Scooters, the Newborns Trust, and not-for-profit social enterprise Relate came in.

Between them they have put together a plan - the first of its kind in South Africa - to have mothers of premature babies express their milk at clinics close to their homes, into reusable containers donated by glassware giant Consol. These will be stored at exactly five degrees and collected on a daily basis by a rider whose bike (with insulated top box) has been sponsored by Relate from the sale of branded bracelets, shuttled to Groote Schuur and fed to the their own children.

But there’s a lot to be done in terms of awareness: globally, every 30 seconds a premature baby dies, and the sad fact is that 75 percent of these deaths are preventable, largely by programmes such as Mothers Own Milk on the Move.

Awareness run

On Saturday 4 November there will be an awareness run from Tyger Valley Harley-Davidson to Groote Schuur Hospital, open to all riders and commemorated by a special metal badge. The dealership will be sponsoring badges for the first 70 riders - after that you’ll have to pitch in R50 for your badge, all of which will go to the Newborns Trust.

The mass ride will leave Tyger Valley at 9am for Groote Schuur hospital, where there will be live music and stalls, and where each rider will collect a few of the 500 special breast milk containers donated by Consol. The ride will then proceed to day clinics in Hanover Park and Gugulethu, to hand over the bottles, to kick-start the Mothers Own Milk on the Move programme.

And that’s where you come in, whether you buy another Relate bracelet, get on your bike to make a noise about it, or just tell somebody who didn’t know.

IOL Motoring