Banking Your Breastmilk Saves Lives

The breastmilk bank is probably the most altruistic banking system in the world. Healthy, lactating moms express and donate their excess breastmilk. The milk is tested and pasteurised, and then distributed to neo-natal intensive care units around the country, where it is used to feed the most vulnerable babies.

Every year, donated breastmilk saves the lives of thousands of vulnerable babies in South Africa. Eight out of one hundred babies in the country are born prematurely and, every year, approximately 11 000 premature babies die from preventable infections and complications.

“All babies have immature immune systems,” says Abby Courtenay, a Registered Dietitian and spokesperson for ADSA (The Association for Dietetics in South Africa), “Breastfeeding plays a vital role in transferring not just nutrients but antibodies and other immune-boosting properties to an infant to strengthen the immune system and protect them against infections. This is why breastmilk is the perfect first food, and why the World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.”

Many mothers giving birth to premature babies in neo-natal intensive care units don’t produce milk immediately, or enough of it. Some mothers experience health complications and cannot breastfeed. If their babies can be fed donated breastmilk instead of formula, it dramatically increases the baby’s chance of survival and offers greater protection against life-threatening infections such as the intestinal infection – necrotising enterocolitis. Donated breastmilk also helps premmies to gain weight and grow faster. This is why donated breastmilk is the next best option when the mother’s own milk is not available.

Breastmilk banking was pioneered in South Africa sixteen years ago by the South African Breastmilk Reserve (SABR) and, today, they have a network of 27 banking facilities across the country. The breastmilk movement in South Africa has since grown to include several other initiatives such as ithemba Lethu milk bank and children’s home in Durban, the KZN Breastmilk Bank Initiative and Milk Matters in the Western Cape.

Every year, more than a thousand South African moms help save lives by donating their milk. “What we would like to see is breastmilk banking being used far more frequently,” says Executive Director and SABR founder, Stasha Jordan. “Expressing breastmilk has become the norm for many new moms who have to return to work while still breastfeeding. Some women have an abundant supply of breastmilk and can easily express more than their baby needs. That surplus can literally save the life of another child. Our donor moms are real heroes helping the most vulnerable in our society to survive.”

SABR and ADSA have partnered to raise awareness of breastmilk banking, which is supported worldwide by both the World Health Organisation and UNICEF.

Who can bank their breastmilk?

A healthy, lactating mom with an excess of breastmilk can make donations. It’s important that you have not received a blood donation in the past year; that you are a non-smoker; that you do not consume alcohol regularly and that you are not on any medication. Donor mothers do need to undergo blood tests to be screened for HIV and hepatitis B.

How does banking my breastmilk work?

  • Donor moms complete an online screening questionnaire
  • SABR contacts you telephonically to refer you to your nearest sign-up facility.
  • Arrangements will be made for the necessary blood tests.
  • You will receive all the information you need for the safe storage of your expressed milk, which will be collected from you.
  • Your breastmilk will be screened, pasteurised and distributed to help save the lives of premature babies in neo-natal intensive care units.

 

Every drop counts and small donations can also be used, so don’t be put off from donating if you don’t have a particularly excessive supply. To find out more visit https://www.sabr.org.za


BUSTING THE BREAKFAST MYTHS

Starting the day with a healthy breakfast is the opening act for a healthy lifestyle, and lays the foundation of our future health over the longer term. Yet, if there’s a meal to be skipped, it is most likely to be breakfast.

This year, National Nutrition Week from 9 – 15 October and National Obesity Week (NNOW) from 15 – 19 October 2018 have united a coalition of health partners, including the National and Provincial Departments of Health, the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), The Nutrition Society of South Africa (NSSA) and The Heart and Stroke Foundation SA (HSFSA) amongst others to promote a shared and very important message that breakfast is the best way to start the day.

“There are a number of key reasons why people skip breakfast,” says ADSA spokesperson and Registered Dietitian, Abby Courtenay. ”This is why it is so important to bust the myths around breakfast and give South Africans from all walks of life the information and help they need to make a healthy breakfast a happy, lifetime habit.”

Myth #1 I am skipping breakfast to lose weight

There is a host of studies that show that people who have a healthy breakfast habit have better weight outcomes than those that skip. Not eating breakfast puts you at risk of grabbing convenience foods with low nutritional value to help you make it through to lunchtime. Feeling starving by lunchtime also causes you to blow out proportions and overeat. “It’s a common belief that if you want to lose weight you should skip breakfast,” points out Kim Rutgers, also a Registered Dietitian and ADSA spokesperson. “This is far from the truth. Skipping any meal will mean important nutrients like vitamins and minerals will be missed.” Effective, and sustainable weight loss and management is instead achieved through healthy food choices, which includes breakfast.

Myth #2 I don’t have time in the morning for breakfast

Healthy avocado, egg open sandwiches on a plate with cherry tomaIt is true, that for most of us, the morning is far more time-stressed in comparison to supper. However, planning, preparation and smart food choices will result in being able to either sit down and eat breakfast with your family or eat your breakfast over the two to three hours after waking.  Abby advises: “From a time perspective, drinking is often quicker than sitting down to a full meal and so my suggestion is a nutritious smoothie. I encourage my patients to blend together a small banana, oats, sugar-free peanut butter and low fat milk. Baby spinach is an optional extra. Not only is this the quickest meal, but it contains balanced portions of fruit, vegetables, minimally processed grains and healthy plant fats. What a way to start your day!” With some planning, preparations for breakfast can be made the night before. Beat the clock by soaking your oats, cutting fruit and boiling eggs during your supper preparation so that it is as easy as possible to make breakfast a quick, enjoyable family meal.

Myth #3 I can’t eat breakfast, I don’t wake up hungry

Many people question the advice to eat when they don’t yet feel hungry, but breakfast doesn’t have to be immediate or done all in one go. It can take place during the two or three hours after waking. Abby says: “Swap your smaller mid-morning snack and breakfast around. For example, eat a fruit when you are getting ready for work or school and then enjoy a bigger, more complete meal at around 10h00. This way you are getting in all the food and nutrients you need whilst still honouring your body’s natural hunger cues.”

Myth #4 I can’t eat breakfast, I don’t like cereals or eggs

A healthy breakfast doesn’t have to be traditional or contemporary breakfast foods. If you don’t like them, don’t eat them; other healthy food choices make a great breakfast. It’s also important to keep in mind that many processed foods marketed as breakfast foods can be laden with sugar and are nutrient poor, and are not the healthy options. “Use up your leftovers for breakfast,” says Abby. “Breakfast food doesn’t always have to be cereal and eggs. Why not have leftover mince on toast with fresh tomato slices or use your leftover pumpkin to make pumpkin fritters?”

When it comes to what a healthy breakfast should consist of, Kim agrees: “The 3 main nutrient groups are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. When all three of these macronutrients, in the right proportions are included in one meal, then you are getting in a balanced, nutritious meal.”

Myth #5 Not eating breakfast saves us money

In the short term, reducing your food bill by skipping breakfast is a folly that will play out in your future and cause unforeseen health expenses. Studies have shown that people who regularly eat healthy breakfasts are at lower risk for expensive conditions such as overweight and obesity; hypertension and heart disease. The issue is rather about how to make breakfast more affordable. According to Abby, healthy eating does not have to expensive. “It may take a little extra planning but when you are in the routine of eating well, you will actually save money. Consider how much you can save with less store bought convenience foods, takeaways and eating out.”

 Top tips for affordable, healthy breakfasts include:

  • Shop around for bargains
  • Buy bulk where possible; share bulk purchases with family and friends
  • Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables; not only will you save money but you will get fresher, tastier produce and contribute to the reduction of your carbon footprint.
  • Use your leftovers
  • Draw up meal plans and budgets; proper planning reduces costs
  • Single portion items, for instance single serving tubs of fruit or yoghurt is often more expensive than buying a large tub of yoghurt. Decant the yoghurt into reusable containers if you need to travel with it.
  • Ready-to-eat cereals cost more than double the price of maize meal, oats and mabele porridge. Save money by making your own muesli instead of store-bought options.

For more information on how breakfast is the best way to start your day, visit the National Nutrition & Obesity Week 2018 website for more tips and recipes: http://www.nutritionweek.co.za/

To find a dietitian in your area, visit www.adsa.org.za


“I believe in moderation, not deprivation”

Meet registered dietitian Abby Courtenay, who is serving on the current ADSA executive committee and looks after the PR portfolio. We chatted to her about why she loves being a dietitian, what the challenges are and what people should consider when deciding which dietitian to consult:

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

From a young age I had an interest on the effects of nutrition on the human body. I vividly remember reading the ‘How my body works’ books and being fascinated by the complexity of the digestive system. By the time I was in standard 9 (or grade 11), I knew I definitely wanted to become a dietitian. Strangely though, in Matric I changed my mind and pursued a degree in architecture. After 1 year I realized that architecture was not my passion and so I started my BSc degree and subsequently was accepted for dietetics at the University of Pretoria in 2007. People often ask if I regret my round about journey to dietetics, but I made some amazing friends along the way and learned a great deal about myself in that time. I don’t think I would be the dietitian I am today, had it not been for my experiences.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

I have been in private practice for almost 3 years, and I still feel a great sense of pride and joy when I receive feedback from my patients telling me how amazing they feel. I think that many people feel pretty terrible on a daily basis, but with correct diet and adequate lifestyle changes they can truly reach their full potential. I strive to incorporate a strong message of moderation and I do not believe in deprivation.

What has been your career highlight?

I will be attending FNCE conference in Chicago (coming up in October 2017), so for me I feel like all my hard work and dedication to my career and dietetics  has culminated to this point and I am beyond excited to represent South African dietitians at an international conference.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

Trying to correct nutrition misconceptions. People unfortunately get their nutrition information from un-credible sources (usually on the internet) and it can be challenging to correct these perceptions. I believe that for dietitians, knowledge is power and the more you arm yourself with current, up-to-date nutrition information to more you can educate the population.

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?

To be honest I don’t ever feel as if my day has been nutritionally disastrous. When you give yourself permission to eat all foods you remove the guilt from eating and thus stop the diet cycle (binge, guilt, deprivation and repeat).

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

  • Do you ever eat *insert indulgent food here*? Of course we do, we are only human and can eat anything in moderation!
  • Don’t judge what I am eating/ buying! This will often happen at a braai or when I see someone at the shopping mall, and I can promise you that I never judge and don’t give my professional opinion unless it is asked for!
  • Can you print me/ email me a diet? All the plans I do are individualized, it is not a “mik-and-druk” process. In order to be successful (with regards to dietary change), you will need to see a dietitian for a one-on-one consultation. She needs to get to know your medical history, lifestyle, likes and dislikes, level of nutrition education and current diet history before she can even think of creating a plan for you!

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

If you have a specific medical problem, ask the dietitian if this is her special interest. If it is not, ask if she can refer you to a dietitian who is more knowledgeable in your problem area and the dietitian should also be conveniently situated, so that it is convenient for you to see her regularly .

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

I like to experiment in the kitchen and try to update my recipe folder on a regular basis, so don’t ever have a ‘favourite dish’ but rather a favourite dish of the week. At the moment I am trying out a homemade tuna and butterbean fishcake.

My favourite treat food is without a doubt baked cheesecake!

To find a dietitian in your area, visit the ADSA website.

More about Abby
Abby Courtenay RD (SA) is an associate dietitian at the Nutritional Solutions Grayston and Melrose. She graduated with a Bachelor of Dietetics at University of Pretoria and also holds a Masters’ degree in Nutrition from the University of Stellenbosch.
She is registered with the HPCSA and is the current ADSA Executive Public Relations portfolio holder and previously served as the Public Sector portfolio and Communications portfolio the ADSA Gauteng South branch.
Abby has a special interest in: maternal, infant and child nutrition; renal and oncology nutrition. In addition to that, she also has extensive experience working with adults within the realm of weight loss and treatment/ prevention of lifestyle-related conditions.
Abby is a regular guest writer for Living and Loving, ChildMag and Clicks magazine, and also contributes as a nutrition expert to medical newsletters both to the public and healthcare professionals through Ann Lake Publishing. Abby is a regular contributor to various radio stations including Radio Cape Hope and Radio 702 and has appeared on television in relation to various nutritional matters.

6 Eating Habits for Healthy Kidneys

When it comes to health advice, our hearts are often in the spotlight. However, as equally vital organs, our kidneys really shouldn’t be relegated to the shadows. Worldwide, Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is on the rise – 1 in 10 people globally are affected, and that’s every bit as serious as cardiac disease.

Our kidneys work very hard for our bodies, and the downside of their dogged efficiency is that by the time we are bothered enough by the symptoms of CKD, the damage has been done. In the late stages of CKD, only ongoing dialysis or surgical transplant may help prolong life – treatments that are not available to many South Africans. This is why health professionals drawing attention to Kidney Awareness Week from 2 to 6 September, advocate for regular screening of kidney function, especially if you fall into the high risk categories.

Interestingly, similar to heart health, obesity, diabetes and hypertension put us at risk for CKD as well. The view of ADSA (the Association for Dietetics in South Africa) is that with the high prevalence of obesity, diabetes and hypertension in the country, it stands to reason that we need to become a nation aware of, and caring about our kidneys.

People who are overweight or obese are up to seven times more likely to develop end-stage renal disease compared to those of normal weight. A family history of CKD or renal failure is also a red flag indicating that you need to actively focus on the health of your kidneys. However, the prime culprit in the majority of CKD cases in South Africa (64%) is undetected or uncontrolled hypertension, which is abnormally high blood pressure. So a basic step in ensuring kidney health is regular blood pressure testing and adherence to treatment and lifestyle changes in order to keep your blood pressure in check.

Every day, our valiant kidneys help us dispose of the excess salt and water that we consume. In the process, they also happen to eliminate toxins that would otherwise build up and take down the living system that is our body. Our kidneys also play an important role in controlling our blood acidity and blood pressure levels. For those who are obese, the kidneys have to work harder, filtering more blood than normal to cope with the demands of the greater body weight. This increased workload can damage the kidneys and raise the risk of developing CKD in the long-term. “When kidneys do fail, the body is literally overwhelmed by excess water, salt and toxins, which defeat every other organ and body system,” says ADSA spokesperson, Registered Dietitian, Abby Courtenay, “The job of the kidneys may not be glamorous or poetic, like the heart, but it is every bit as important.”

The good news in all of this is that there is a lot we can do day to day to promote the health of our kidneys. Courtenay adds: “If you have been screened and diagnosed in the earlier stages of CKD, or need to implement measures because you suffer from obesity, diabetes or hypertension, you can make a significant positive difference just with your daily diet.”

“Nutritional strategies to deal with CKD, as well as its risk factors are well-researched and documented,” says Registered Dietitian, Cecile Verseput, “What’s important to note is that in the most up to date professional interpretation of the research available, the focus has turned from considering single nutrients to looking more holistically at an overall healthful dietary pattern, particularly rich in plant-based foods.” Cecile points out that recent SA consumer statistics show that fresh fruit and veg, as well as healthy sources of vegetable protein, are low shopping priorities in the country.

Here are her Six Top Tips for Boosting Kidney Health:

  1. Go green – and red, yellow, orange, purple and blue! Boosting the fresh fruit and veg in your diet is one of the best ways to protect your kidneys. There are so many ways to make vegetables and salads a delicious part of your family’s eating.
  2. Get real – Drop the high-salt, trans-fat takeaways and convenience foods like hot cakes. Cultivate a real interest and enjoyment in cooking from scratch with fresh, healthy ingredients. It’s so much more delicious, and good for your kidneys.
  3. Be choosy about fats – They are not equal. Go for extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil rather than hard fats to protect the blood vessels in your kidneys.
  4. Go nuts – Boost your intake of nuts and legumes. They are delicious, and provide healthy fats and fibre.
  5. Forget the convenient fads – Let go of the sugar-sweetened drinks and treats, fast foods, processed and red meat.
  6. Embrace plant protein power – Open up to the wide range of legumes, grains and nuts that are readily available and make them part of your daily eating. Swap red meat with legumes or alternatively with fish or poultry.