BusinessDay

Breast Milk Bank debuts in Nigeria to reduce neonatal mortality rate

The Milk Booster Breastfeeding Company, a company focused on improving breast milk supply for nursing mothers to ensure that every baby is well nourished, has launched Breast milk bank in a bid to reduce neonatal mortality rate.

The initiative is also to commemorate the Annual World Breastfeeding Week with the aim to give all babies a fighting chance at life.

Speaking during the launch of Breast Milk Bank in Lagos, Chinenye Obinwanne-Ezewike, popularly known as ‘Dr. Chinny’, the CEO and founder of The Milk Booster Breastfeeding Company; and The Breast Milk Bank Nigeria, said she has been having mothers within her milk booster community come to her and ask for breast milk for premature babies.

Obinwanne-Ezewike recalled that a mum had triplets and died, so the babies needed breast milk to stay alive. She said when she gets these kinds of requests and she and her team are unable to meet up with provision of breast milk for the baby, they most times die.

The Lactation consultant said the absence of a breast milk bank results in increasing Nigeria’s already high neonatal mortality rate, adding that it was a burden on her to provide treated pasteurised breast milk for these babies so that they will be able to have a safe chance at life.

Speaking on the process of getting the breast milk, she said, “We first screen the mothers donating breast milk of communicable diseases. They would be screened on HIV, Hepatitis B and C, Syphilis and HTLV. It will cost about N20,000 to screen one mum and this cost will be covered by us.

“So once the mum is negative from all of these, we will take her milk and start processing and after that, we will test the milk before we give it to the babies. Every mother can come to get breast milk because we also have surrogate mothers with more than one baby who don’t have sufficient milk they are induced to produce,” she explained.

Obinwanne –Ezewike disclosed that priorities for her are preterm babies that are sick, followed by preterm babies that are healthy, then healthy babies that are sick.

Speaking on the challenges, she said unstable power supply has been one major factor that has delayed kick-off of the initiative and this is why the Milk Bank is starting off from the milk booster facility, where there is constant power supply.

“The milk bank is sited within the milk booster facility with the aim that in a year’s time, the milk bank would have grown big enough to have its own space and have the kind of electricity that can sustain it as well. So, we are using the one at the Milk booster facility,” she said.

Read also: Over 70% infants in Nigeria denied benefits of breast milk – UNICEF, WHO

Obinwanne –Ezewike who is also a member of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and Lactation Consultants of Great Britain said already, there are a lot of mum with surplus breast milk supply and with plans to increase awareness online and educate prospective donors, more people will be willing to do this.

“We don’t sell breast milk and that is why every mum that is donating is a volunteer. We are going to pay for the screening and sustain the facility. This is going to be similar to what blood banks do. We are hoping to sustain this initiative by charging a service fee to those who would get breast milk.

“We are also expecting funding from different bodies that we are going to be partnering with to be able to reach more babies across Nigeria. We have plans to meet with the ministry of health and partner with them on this initiative,” the doctor disclosed.

Breast Milk Bank Nigeria said the response from donors has been encouraging, hinting that Nigerian mothers that can produce breast milk are always happy to donate, no matter how little.

“We want the government to also support this initiative by providing funds to help those with low income and those in the rural areas. We want to reach out to these people. If we get that support, it will reduce neonatal mortality rate in Nigeria. Nigeria has the third highest premature baby rate in the whole world and this often leads to death because there is no breast milk to sustain them,” she further said.

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