World Prematurity Day 2022 focuses on the importance of breastfeeding

1 in every 7 children, in South Africa, that’s about 84 000 babies are born prematurely

This figures, from the World health organisation, comes as today marks World Prematurity Day. The day is an international effort to highlight the global health burden of preterm births, raising awareness that with good management, neonates born too early, can thrive and survive.

This year theme is "A parent’s embrace: a powerful therapy - Enable skin-to-skin contact from the moment of birth."

According to the WHO, 15 million babies are born prematurely each year globally, accounting for 1 out of every 10 births worldwide.

According to WHO data, babies born preterm are more vulnerable to various health problems, like difficulty breathing, feeding problems, and infections, than their full-term counterparts.

"Premature birth is a bottleneck which is hampering national efforts to decrease infant mortality rates and a major focus area for public health interventions," she explains. "Apart from the human tragedy of losing these infants, the 11 000 premature babies who die from preventable infections and complications each year incur considerable costs for maternity wards and neonatal ICU facilities and contribute to the enormous pressure on our public health systems," says Executive Director at South African Breastmilk Reserve, Staša Jordan.

Preterm births and their associated complications are thought to be a leading cause behind high rates of infant and child mortality, especially in low-income settings.

Every year, about 30 million small and sick newborns do not access the care they require, many of them in the African Region.

In SA, the under 5s' mortality rate stands at about 33 deaths per thousand live births. Overall, in the African Region, almost a third of the 1 million newborn infant deaths that occur every year are due to premature birth, or resulting complications.

Jordan says that although the mortality rate for under 5s' has improved over the last few decades, the rates of premature births are getting worse.

 The WHO's research suggests that three-quarters of premature babies could be saved with feasible, cost-effective existing care solutions, such as Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), antenatal steroid injections, and antibiotics for newborn babies with infections

Jordan says Kangaroo care involves a lot of skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby, and frequent breastfeeding

“While many parents now know that "Breast is Best!" new mothers may not realise that breastmilk is particularly important for preterm babies to stave off infection and Necrotising Enterocolitis. Breastmilk, mothers-own primarily and donated are a lifesaving intervention for this very vulnerable population group as it protects very low birth weight babies from infection.  protect them from infections.’’

Jordan has called on civil society to support parents, specifically mothers on strengthening breastfeeding


PICTURE: VIA Global Health

Info: South African Breastmilk Reserve; World Health Organisation


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