ITHEMBA Lethu Breastmilk Bank in Manor Gardens joined a worldwide host of individuals and organisations to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) from 1 to 7 August.
In keeping with the 2017 theme, Sustaining Breastfeeding Together, iThemba Lethu honoured the many breastfeeding mums, their partners, friends and employers who ensure that babies receive the best nutrition that growing infants need.
“We also extended a special salute to the mums who donate their breastmilk to the little ones in our care. Not only have these mums benefited babies in our care but we have on occasion been able to supply donor milk to needy babies in public and private hospitals and other care homes,” said Joelle Gibson, who runs the breastmilk bank.
Evidence gathered from scientific studies has consistently pointed to the unequalled importance of breastmilk in a baby’s first six months of life and the continued benefit of extended breastfeeding along with complimentary foods well beyond that.
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It was this evidence that led UKZN researcher and academic, Prof Anna Coutsoudis, to establish the iThemba Lethu Breastmilk Bank in August 2001 in order to provide donor breastmilk for the orphaned and abandoned babies in the care of the iThemba Lethu Transition home.
Speaking to breastmilk donors at a gathering at iThemba Lethu on Monday, the resounding feeling from donors is that they know they are doing something for a good cause.
Claire Kronmoller, who has been donating breastmilk for the past five months, said she saw a pamphlet at her doctor’s office about iThemba Lethu when she went for her six week check-up.
“I contacted Joelle and started donating milk. I have always had an over-abundant supply and am able to donate a bottle each day. It’s definitely a good cause and since I started donating milk, I have registered to be an organ donor. I have also donated blood and hair before and feel if you have it, you can give it,” she said.
Claire’s friend, Kelsey De Connick, has also signed up to be a breastmilk donor.
“I met Claire during antenatal classes. I usually do an extra pump in the morning, and as my daughter won’t take a bottle, I have two extra feeds each day which I can donate. I have always been a blood donor and now that I can’t donate for a while, I can donate my breastmilk. It’s nice to be able to see the fruits of my donation as I can visit the babies at iThemba Lethu. The main thing is that it is making a difference to these children,” she said.
Donor, Nicci Hosking, has been donating breastmilk for around seven months. She found out about the programme through a friend, Karen Brokensha, who is programmes co-ordinator at iThemba Lethu.
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“I am the administrator for the KZN Women in Business, and we support iThemba Lethu as a charity. When I found out what the organisation does, I got involved. My daughter Lilly is 15 months old now and as she has dropped feeds, I am able to donate milk each day. I will try breastfeed until Lilly is two years old and donate to the babies at the home as well,” she said.
Inge Oosthuizen and her cousin Landi Struckmeyer, are also donors. Inge’s chest freezer defrosted and she had to find something to do with the 18 units of breastmilk she had expressed.
“I googled and got hold of Joelle. Landi and I decided we would get involved. We are both happy to make a difference to these children,” she said.
A breastmilk bank relies on approved donors to ensure a steady supply of stock. Donated breastmilk is pasteurised and stored, ready to be fed to babies who do not have access to their own mothers’ milk. iThemba Lethu follows strict screening, pasteurisation and microbiological testing guidelines to ensure that the donor breastmilk is safe.
“All our donor mothers are first screened before their milk is accepted, in order to ensure that they do not carry any risks. Successful donors must pass a lifestyle screening questionnaire, be in good general health, provide blood test results, abstain from smoking, illegal drugs and alcohol and have direct access to a fridge and freezer,” said Joelle.
To get involved, visit: http://www.ithembalethu.org.za or contact: [email protected] or 031 261 7723.