The women helping mums of premature babies

Lactation consultant Carey Haupt talks about the women donating their time and breastmilk to premature babies as Prematurity Awareness Month draws to a close.

There is an amazing community of women who support mothers in times of need. This community doesn’t get any recognition and never get to meet the moms and babies that they help. They donate their time and breast milk with no fanfare or loud cheers.

They donate their milk to breastmilk banks because they know how important breastmilk is in saving lives. They understand that not all moms are able to breastfeed from day one and they step in to help in the special love of motherhood.

They help so that the mother who is not able to currently breastfeed has time to collect herself and slowly build up her supply while knowing that her baby is being cared for. These women don’t know who their milk helps, and often it is more than one family.

It is in their kindness that they show understanding of the difficulties of being a mother of a premature baby, which is often unbelievably stressful. Firstly, the early arrival of her baby is never how a mother would like to have her baby born. Instead of going home with her child, they must leave their child in NICU. The emotional strain of not being able to hold your baby and seeing them attached to machines that beep and make scary noises is massive. The uncertainty of what is happening around you and learning how the NICU works. The medical complications of the mother or baby can cause added stress that can be a real barrier to the mother’s breastfeeding efforts. This is where the donated breastmilk is so important. The donated breastmilk bridges the gap of the premature baby’s needs and mother’s breastmilk supply.

The medical staff in the NICU know the lifesaving benefits of breastmilk. Breastmilk is easier for the premature baby’s gut to digest and absorb. Breastmilk helps to prevent NEC, which is basically when parts of the baby’s intestine start to die off. This results in massive complications and possible surgery which will have lifelong repercussions. Hence the medical staff will encourage a mom to express her own milk. If she does not have enough breastmilk for her baby’s needs, they can then use donated breastmilk.

How do you join this community of amazing women that saves lives and gives hope to premature babies and their families?

If you are a breastfeeding mom and would like to donate breastmilk, you need to contact the South African Breast Milk Reserve. You will be asked a few questions to check if you are eligible to donate breastmilk. This is similar to when you donate blood. You might not be eligible to become a donor due to some illnesses or medication that you take. This is all to help protect the little life that will benefit from the donated milk.

Once you are accepted as a donor, your milk will be collected and processed. This is where the milk is tested for bacteria or viruses and it is also pasteurised. Once a premature baby is identified for donor milk, the SABR will be notified and they will send the milk to the NICU so that it can be given to the baby.

If you have donated or received milk, please let us know your story.

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