January 29, 2013 | The Editors

Banking on breast milk, and you

Infant in a crib beneath a red blanket.
When mothers are unable to breastfeed, donated milk can be a lifesaver. Photo: PATH/Amy MacIver.

For babies, breast milk is the one and only super food. It provides all of the energy, nutrients, and fluids they need during their first six months of life as well as antibodies that help keep them free from illness. When a mother’s milk is unavailable, donated breast milk can be a lifesaver—especially for babies who are premature, very small, severely malnourished, orphaned, or born to mothers who are HIV-positive.

In South Africa, one heart-wrenching effect of the HIV epidemic is the number of babies who need donated breast milk. In response, hospitals are asking for urgent expansion of a simple, inexpensive system developed by PATH, the University of Washington, and the Human Milk Banking Association of South Africa. The system uses mobile phones to manage heat pasteurization of donated breast milk.

Simple system to deliver safe milk

We’ve launched the system in one hospital, where it has significantly improved health workers’ ability to monitor pasteurization temperatures and ensure that potential pathogens in donated milk are killed. Now, we’re aiming to help several more public hospitals establish low-tech milk banks and phone-based monitoring.

All we need is a little push. That’s where a new crowdfunding website called Catapult—and you—come in.

Give a little, save a lot

Developed by Women Deliver, a nonprofit advocacy organization that focuses on improving the health and well-being of women and girls, Catapult connects people to projects. Organizations like PATH apply to Catapult’s staff. Once accepted, we post descriptions of projects that need funding—including the amount of money we need to make a difference. People like you choose the projects you want to support with donations of any size.

Once projects are fully funded, we go to work.

Services for babies, girls, and families

We’re featuring three projects on the Catapult website right now. Banking breast milk for babies, as you already know, will help vulnerable infants get the benefits of mother’s milk, even when their own mothers aren’t able to breastfeed.

Promoting “girl talk” among Burmese migrants in Thailand will help bring important reproductive health services to young migrant women in Bangkok. And supporting women and families facing tuberculosis will help us train volunteers in Vietnam to educate tuberculosis patients and their families on improving nutrition and adhering to treatment to prevent illness and enhance recovery.

You can learn more about each of our projects—and those of other organizations—by visiting Catapult. Of course, you can donate there, too. Thanks for helping us make a difference in the lives of women and girls.

More information

Posted in: , , , , ,