The five mothers sat in a bright blue room in Kenya’s largest maternity hospital waiting to pump breast milk – but not for their own newborns.
At Kenya’s first breast milk bank, the women were waiting to help infants whose mothers couldn’t feed them by donating some of their own milk, reports Reuters.
Antibody-rich breast milk helps premature and sick babies recover faster. Although infants benefit most from their own mother’s milk, milk from donors – if safely collected and pasteurized – is a good alternative, the American Academy of Paediatrics says.
Six months ago, the Ministry of Health and the African Population and Health Research Centre set up Kenya’s first breast milk bank at Nairobi’s Pumwani Maternity Hospital. The project is a pilot to see if similar banks can be set up elsewhere in the country, said Elizabeth Kimani-Murage of the research centre.
So far, 75 infants have received nutrient-rich breast milk from about 400 donors. Their mothers were either absent, ill, unable to lactate, or with substance-abuse problems, said Faith Njeru, the unit’s head nurse.
First, Njeru and her team had to make people comfortable with the idea of milk donation. There are milk banks in South Africa, Mozambique, and Cape Verde but many Kenyans had not heard of the idea.