UCT students develop breastfeeding app to support babies in need of breast milk

Cape Town – A UCT lecturer who is donating her breast milk to Milk Matters, a non-profit human milk bank, has inspired post-graduate students to assist the organisation with research and developing an app to support babies in need of breast milk.

Dr Melissa Densmore, a senior lecturer in the university’s Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICT4D), said she decided to share her excess breast milk with babies in need.

Densmore said that was the start of the relationship between the university and Milk Matters, which had seen her supervising five students who had undertaken research on and for the milk bank.

She said Chelsea-Joy Wardle and Mitchell Green were the first of her students to focus on Milk Matters for their honours research projects in 2016.

“This included designing an app that helped facilitate donations and communication. Wardle built on this and continued the research for her Master’s degree, which she completed last year,” she said.

Dr Mellissa Densmore, a lecturer from UCT donated breast milk to the Milk Matters. Picture: Supplied

She said now three honours students – Gerhard Serton, Dino Bossi and Gustavo Amicis M de Souza Mendes – were building on that research under her supervision, with an aim to make the app more widely available and make it easy and cost effective for the non-profit to share interesting and current information.

Bossi said that by ensuring minimal cost and maximum reward, they hoped to lay a groundwork for other non-profit organisations that wanted to expand technologically but were concerned about cost.

Milk Matters chief executive Jenny Wright said since the inception of the organisation in 2003, more than 2 500 mothers donated breast milk, and thousands of babies at 28 different hospitals across the Western Cape had benefited from that lifeline.

Milk Matters’ Pasteurising Officer, Amy April, taking pasteurised donor breast milk out of the pasteuriser. Picture: Supplied

Wright said the milk was given to premature babies, who are particularly vulnerable to fatal complications if they are not fed breast milk, making the donations vital for saving lives and acting as a bridge to breast-feeding.

“It takes a community to make it possible for a milk bank like ours to operate and feed babies, and we are delighted to have UCT, these students and Dr Densmore as part of our community, sharing our goal of saving premature babies’ lives and supporting breast-feeding in general,” Wright said.

She said anyone who wished to donate breast milk could contact them at 021 659 5599 or send an email to [email protected]

Cape Argus