Milk of kindness

Zinhle Mapumulo

Zinhle Mapumulo

The thought of another woman breast-feeding your precious baby might sound appalling.

But this act of kindness has helped a lot of babies in South Africa, especially those affected by HIV.

Three breast-milk banks operate in this country. The South African Breastmilk Reserve is based in Gauteng, iThembalethu in Durban and Milk Matters in Cape Town.

Penny Reimers, of iThembalethu, said breast-milk banking has helped thousands of babies since it was started five years ago.

"Donated breast-milk is safe. All donors are meticulously screened. We insist on seeing a copy of the results of a negative antenatal HIV test.

"After the milk has been drawn from the mothers, it is pasteurised and so cannot be contaminated," said Reimers.

She said iThembalethu cares for two of the most vulnerable groups of children - the orphaned and the abandoned by parents affected by HIV-Aids.

"We have nursed malnourished babies back to being strong and healthy with the help of breast-milk banking."

How breast-milk banking works

l Potential donors have to produce a copy of the results of their negative antenatal HIV test;

l They are obliged to fill out a donor-screening questionnaire;

l Donors are taught how to express and store breast milk;

l Moms are given a bag containing 30 bottles and caps. The bottles are used for storing the breast-milk;

l At home, moms express the milk into the bottles and seal the cap by pressing on it with a hot iron;

l The bottles have to be labelled, dated and frozen;

l The bank collects the bottles once a month, depending on the size of the mom's freezer;

l The milk is pasteurised at the bank before being fed to babies.