Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Noelene Namugwanya had just had her first baby three months ago when her cousin Honoranta Nakato delivered five babies through a Caesarian section at the Women’s Fertility Hospital in Bukoto. On October 19, 2018, her quintuplets had arrived early at only seven months.
But, that was not all. She couldn’t breastfeed them even as the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends starting breastfeeding within one hour after birth and she knew that for premature babies it’s most important.
Then she started struggling to find milk donors as her only solution. Namugwanya came in handy.
She said they tested for hepatitis B, blood group, HIV and other infections in order to clear her to provide breast milk as the only option for the babies who are now 10 months old to survive.
As a working mother, Namugwanya used to express the milk every morning and kept it in the fridge.
She had to do this for two months and now feels the three girls and two boys that she saved are part of her life. She says she would continue saving more children especially premature babies if she had an opportunity to do so.
However, milk donation in Uganda is quite a new phenomenon with many unaware of how exactly the milk is expressed and more importantly safely stored.
To solve this, Dr Victoria Nakibuuka who heads the pediatric clinic at Nsambya Hospital tells URN that they are in the process of establishing a breast milk bank.
Because of the importance of breastfeeding, the World Health Organization has set out to create awareness about the importance of breast milk for both mothers and children alike. This will be in every first week of the month of August.
In a press release issued this morning, the organization noted that increasing breastfeeding to near-universal levels could save more than 800, 000 lives every year, the majority being children under 6 months. The ministry of health records show that up to 9,800 premature babies die in Uganda annually.
According to the statement that calls governments to enact family-friendly policies that enable breastfeeding like paid maternity leave for a minimum of 18 weeks, breastfeeding has good effects to mothers as it decreases the risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
It is estimated that increased breastfeeding could avert 20,000 maternal deaths each year due to breast cancer.