Kenya launches first breast milk bank to help newborns

Kenya has its first human breast milk bank.

Kenya has its first human breast milk bank.

AFP/Orlando Estrada

NAIROBI - At Kenya's first breast milk bank, women wait to help infants whose mothers couldn't feed them by donating some of their own milk.

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 pasteurised - is a good alternative, the American Academy of Paediatrics says.

READ: Breast milk saves newborns

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.

The team hopes they can help save more Kenyan babies.