The heaving chest of a premature baby, no bigger than a shoe and fighting to breath, is a sight no parent hopes to witness.
Doctors and parents do all they can to keep every premature child alive with love, breastmilk and incubators, but for parents whose children are in hospital for weeks, it can be a struggle to get the much needed milk to their child each day.
Groote Schuur Hospital, the New Born Hospital trust, Western Cape Department of Health and various other stakeholders have now brought the milk delivery system back by launching Mothers own Milk (MoM) on the move on Thursday November 16.
The launch coincided with World Prematurity Day, which was marked on Friday November 17, and will see breastmilk being delivered from mothers staying in Hanover Park, Mitchell’s Plain and Gugulethu to their their nearest health care facility and to their babies at Groote Schuur hospital.
The breastfeeding delivery system is a first in South Africa and will see scooter drivers picking up and delivering milk from moms to premature babies. The project was created to assist mothers who are often discharged from hospital and have no way to return daily to feed or visit their babies who remain there for up to two months.
“One in seven babies are born premature and 60% of those born weighing less than 1kg do not survive, mostly due to a lack of resources, “ says clinical dietitian, Elizabeth Rossouw. “The project will now enable mothers to get breastmilk to their little ones in hospital – particularly premature babies, for whom the nourishing milk is essential. In Brazil the fire department helps to transport milk to moms and in the UK a Harley Davidson group helps to transport milk. This is a first for South Africa.
“Breastmilk supplies are diminished so babies could possiblly not receive the nutrients required to build their immune systems and fight off illness. Breast-feeding prevents infections and long-term intestinal problems. Brain development is also increased. Some mothers pay R40 a day to get to the hospital, which is R1 200 a month, to get to the baby,” says Ms Rossouw.
Mother Kals Eizabeth Ndango told her story of how her child was born prematurely and the journey she went on to ensure that he received the nutrition he needed.
“My water broke at 26 weeks, I was scared as I didn’t know what would happen and I had been waiting for a baby for such a long time. They kept me at the hospital up to 34 weeks and a week later I started to have a high fever. They induced me and when my baby was born, he was so tiny. I was so scared, I didn’t even want to take a picture because he looked fragile.
“Transport was most difficult. My baby was here for a month and I took two forms of transport to see my baby everyday. Today he is strong and healthy. I saw mothers struggling to have breastmilk so I decided to become a donor,” said Ms Ndango.
Seniors in Mitchell’s Plain came, together with Mary Anne Bergman from Social Development and Early Childhood Development, to assist neonatal babies by knitting tiny items of clothing for the premature babies at the hospital.
The Relate Trust and Scully Scooters also partnered with the project which enabled three young South Africans to start, and run, their own small businesses by providing them with training and their own scooter for the project.
Relate has created a special purple bracelet for the project which is sold at till points of leading retailers across South Africa. A portion of the proceeds is allocated to the MoM fund.