Breastmilk saves lives in Eastern Cape hospitals

Donated breastmilk is saving the lives of ill and premature newborn babies in the Eastern Cape.


Critically ill, premature and underweight babies who are not strong enough to feed from their own mothers naturally need a nutritious food supply to survive.

Breastmilk is the most nutritious food sources for babies, and the South African Breastmilk Reserve (SABR) coordinates the collection and redistribution of donated breastmilk to help babies gain the strength they need to fight for their lives.

Of the 124 severely ill and underweight babies that received donated breastmilk in the Eastern Cape last year, only one did not survive.

Donated breastmilk

In 2007, the SABR began distributing donated breastmilk collected at Uitenhage’s Netcare Cuyler Hospital in a pilot facility, which has been a success.

“We currently have seven SABR facilities in the Eastern Cape; three are fully operational at Netcare Cuyler, Cecilia Makiwane Hospital in Mdantsane, and Dora Nginza Hospital in Port Elizabeth. St Elizabeth Mission Hospital in Lusikisiki and Frontier Hospital in Queenstown are recruiting donors and available for queries and the SABR banks at Madzikane KaZulu Hospital in Mount Frere and the General Hospital in Mthatha are in the final stages of installation,” says Stasha Jordan, breastfeeding activist and executive director at SABR.

The breastmilk bank at Cecelia Makiwane Hospital, set up in November last year, redistributed donated breastmilk to 45 babies (all weighing less than 1.8kg) in the hospital’s neonatal unit in its first seven months. The bank collects 30 to 40 bottles of donated breastmilk from donor mothers every month.

“Breast really is best. There are countless benefits of breastmilk for infants. Feeding artificial milk to premature and low birth weight infants increases their risk for developing life-threatening intestinal diseases,” says registered dietician Kim Venter, who set up the bank with nursing sister Nobathembu Mafanya.

Breastmilk is literally saving lives in the Eastern Cape, one of the provinces plagued with the highest number of infant and premature deaths in the country. We urge everyone in the province to participate in this life-saving initiative,” says Jordan.

Click here to read more about the benefits of breastmilk. 

Get involved

Challenges faced by the SABR include a shortage of donated breastmilk, low breastfeeding rates, sourcing donor mothers and funding the operation of the milk banks. To get involved or find out more, visit, call 011 482 1920 or email

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