A groundbreaking project that aims to increase survival rates of premature babies by facilitating access to much needed breastmilk is launching in Cape Town at Groote Schuur hospital on November 16.

The project is the first of its kind in South Africa, enabling mothers to get breastmilk to their little ones in hospital - particularly premature babies, for whom the nourishing milk is essential. One in seven babies is born premature and 60% of those born weighing less than 1kg do not survive, mostly due to a lack of resources.

Called the Mom’s Milk on the Move (MoM) Project, this collaboration is made possible by Newborns Trust, Scully Scooters, the Relate Trust and CONSOL Glass.

MoM’s official launch takes place just a day ahead of World Prematurity Day on November 17.

The day marks a global movement raising awareness of preterm birth and the health concerns of preterm babies.

In South Africa, mothers are often discharged from hospital and have no way to return daily to feed or visit their babies who remain there for up to two months. As a result, breastmilk supplies are diminished, and babies do not receive the nutrients required to build their immune systems and fight off illness. The MoM initiative aims to change that. 

Through this project, mom’s milk will be delivered to babies at clinics in three key areas around Cape Town: Hanover Park, Mitchells Plain and Gugulethu.

One famous South African who was a premature baby is star athlete Wayde van Niekerk, who was born at just 29 weeks with a blood infection.

Wayde’s mother, Odessa Swarts, is passionate about care for premature babies, a passion that rubbed off on her son who donated R500 000 to Groote Schuur’s neonatal unit last year.

“Having a premature baby can be a very challenging and sometimes lonely journey. A project like this one that understands the needs of a struggling mother and provides this kind of support is a real blessing. Well done to all involved in the MoM Project,” Odessa said.

Swarts believes that this initiative is a big step forward in the fight for these vulnerable children, and she is proud to be associated with Newborns Trust.

Before this project, The Relate Trust and Scully Scooters partnered in April this year and enabled three young South Africans to start, and run, their own small businesses by giving them each training and their own scooter. The partnership was funded by Relate’s ongoing enterprise development fund that forms a crucial part of their unique business model.

For every Relate Bracelet sold at till points of leading retailers across South Africa (Woolworths, Clicks, Nando’s, Cape Union Mart, Poetry, and many more), or through Relate’s online store, a portion of the proceeds is allocated to this fund.  

By partnering with like-minded corporates and organisations like Scully Scooters, CONSOL, and the Newborns Trust, Relate aims to make a big impact in South Africa.

These enterprise development initiatives enable new businesses and young entrepreneurs to thrive. Relate has donated vehicles and funded startups, such as the Goodbye Malaria shop at OR Tambo Airport which has created jobs and supports a very important cause in Africa.

Recardo Swail, one of the initial scooter recipients, has now been upgraded to a motorbike, also sponsored by Relate, to enable him to be the first MoM mover. Before this opportunity, Swail was already well-known in his local area for taking initiative and delivering medication by foot to residents in need. Sometimes, he would get R10 for his efforts.

“We are proud to be able to empower young entrepreneurs like Recardo to start and run their own businesses, and operate incredibly important initiatives like the MoM Project. There is a huge shortage of employment and training opportunities in South Africa. If more organisations worked together, we could start to change that. And we may even come up with some great problem-solving ideas in the process,” says Relate Trust CEO Neil Robinson.

The motorbike will enable Swail to work faster, and help more babies in need. The bike will be equipped with a special refrigerated box to hold the fragile CONSOL jars of milk at exactly the right temperature.

“It’s so exciting to be a part of this new project. People need to know they can do this. It is my personal mission to educate as many people as possible while I am out on the road,” says Swail. “Helping people is something I’ve always wanted to do. I want to save lives – that’s what’s important!”

Leader in glass manufacturing in South Africa CONSOL Glass has also come to the party, donating enough glass jars for a year, which can be sterilized and used by mothers to express breastmilk for their babies.

In honour of the MoM Project and World Prematurity Day, Newborns Trust and Relate are also launching a brand new purple woven bracelet, with all sales contributing directly to the Newborns Trust to improve the lives of newborn babies and their families. 

To purchase the hand woven Relate bracelets, please contact the Newborns Trust directly - enquiries@newborns.org.za.