South Africa Country Program

Human Milk Banking

Research has shown that breast milk provides the exact nutrients needed to ensure optimal health, growth and development of a child. It also contains essential elements needed to boost babies’ immune system and help them fight infection. Human milk banks (HMBs) are a crucial system for treating and providing safe donor milk to vulnerable infants, when mom is unable to breastfeed.

Upgrading human milk banks and promoting exclusive breastfeeding

Launch of the upgraded HMB, uThungulu. Photo: PATH

Launch of the upgraded HMB, uThungulu (Photo: PATH)

Through the Window of Opportunity Project, PATH has supported the upgrade and refurbishment of the human milk bank at the Lower Umfolozi War Memorial Regional Hospital in uThungulu district. This support included purchasing a pasteurizer and other equipment and training hospital staff on human milk bank processes. The project also promotes exclusive breastfeeding and encourages communities to donate to, and make use of, the human milk bank as a means to improve the health and nutrition of infants.

Read the article on the upgraded HMB launch.


Smart phone app that supports pasteurization


FoneAstra (Photo: PATH)

Flash-heat pasteurization is a simple method used by women in the home setting to treat their own breast milk. This method has also been used to treat donor milk in a neonatal intensive care unit in Durban, South Africa, however, the difficulties in temperature monitoring has prevented it being scaled to other facilities.

PATH, in partnership with the University of Washington, and with funding from Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, designed a low cost smart phone device called FoneAstra to monitor the temperature of flash-heating pasteurization. FoneAstra has since been adapted to guide the user through the pasteurization process and record and transmit pasteurization temperatures.

The FoneAstra HMB project aims to:

  • Develop a target product profile and commercialization approach for FoneAstra.
  • Ensure sustainable supply through technology commercialization of FoneAstra.
  • Scale-up decentralized HMBs in two districts in KwaZulu-Natal, through integrated implementation of the Mother Baby Friendly Initiative plus (MBFI+) model and the FoneAstra quality control system.
  • Validate improved retention of breast milk immune properties using the FoneAstra quality control system.
  • Assess the feasibility of FoneAstra as a diagnostic tool for on-site testing for donor milk contamination.