Perceptions of community-based human milk banks before and after training in a resource-limited South African setting

Heloise E Goodfellow, P Reimers, K Israel-Ballard, A Coutsoudis


Background. Human breastmilk provides gold standard nutrition and immunological support to infants. For low birth weight, HIV-infected, HIV-exposed or otherwise vulnerable babies, it can mean the difference between life and death. When a mother’s own milk is not available, safe, donated human breastmilk is an excellent alternative. High rates of under-5 mortality have prompted the South African (SA) Ministry of Health to commit to scaling up human milk banks in key health facilities. Community-based human milk banks (CBHMBs) have the potential to complement these efforts, but there is little research on the feasibility and acceptability of this approach. 

Objective. To determine mothers’ perceptions of breastfeeding and CBHMBs, and to ascertain how training could affect those perceptions. 

Methods. A total of 40 black mothers in KwaZulu-Natal, SA, participated in a survey on breastfeeding and human milk banks (HMBs) prior to commencing a breastfeeding peer-counselling training course that included information on HMBs. The survey was re-administered following the completion of the module on HMBs. The questionnaire was repeated ~4 months later.

Results. Following training, significant changes were observed in mothers’ knowledge and perceptions around donor milk and safety. No significant changes were observed in reports of what these mothers presumed the community’s perceptions around donor milk banking were.

Conclusion. Education of mothers can play an important role in supporting CBHMBs by improving mothers’ perceptions and acceptance of breastfeeding, donor milk, and milk banking. Changing community concerns around HMBs will require more than just changing the perceptions of mothers.

Authors' affiliations

Heloise E Goodfellow, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, School of Clinical Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban

P Reimers, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban

K Israel-Ballard, Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition Global Program, Seattle

A Coutsoudis, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban

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Cite this article

South African Journal of Child Health 2016;10(1):83-86. DOI:10.7196/SAJCH.2016.v10i1.1103

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-12-10
Date published: 2016-03-29

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