BY Vanessa Calys-Tagoe, 10:45am December 06, 2022,

Meet Dr. Chinny Obinwanne, the woman behind the first breast milk bank in Nigeria

Chinny Obinwanne, the Doctor behind the first breast milk bank in Nigeria. Photos: BBC

After the heart-wrenching, soul breaking and ear-shrilling pain that is as loud as it should be, the almost automatic sigh when the baby is finally out and the curvy line of a smile that develops into a grin when a mother holds her child is proof of that natural tender loving care.

But, all of that smile could be cut short should it happen that she is unable to produce breast milk; a meal for her child. The conclusion an African society may draw is that that mother is not ‘mother enough’. 

Well, the breastfeeding doctor, Dr. Chineye “Chinny” Obinwanne, recognized this gap and decided to do something about it, not just as a business-minded person, but as a victim of the mother who could not feed her child. 

“As a new mom, I felt like a failure when I couldn’t produce enough milk for my baby,” she said to the BBC. The joy of most married women is to start a family with their partner. Childbearing comes into play and after the pain and struggle of the push, the home is filled with joy and laughter over the presence of a new addition to the family, but that joy may be cut should the feeding of the baby be cut short. In a typical African home that is unacceptable. 

And that is what happened to Dr. Obinwanne. In 2016, after bearing her first child, the production of breastmilk did not come as expected. Her baby was also relatively smaller than normal. Months after mother and child had been discharged and were now home, the new mother was unable to pump sufficient milk for her baby girl, and that not only hurt her but like she told the BBC, “it felt like I had failed at my first primary motherly duty.” 

To help solve the problem, she took to eating more meals, from pap to increasing her portions all in the hopes of getting milk to feed her newborn, but to no avail. Eventually, her husband threatened to introduce baby formula as he could also not sit and watch his daughter starve. Being a doctor, Dr. Obinwanne knew the benefits of breastfeeding a child and began to find means and ways to mitigate her problem. 

Alas, she found a solution. She developed a recipe for organic snacks and hours after consumption, her baby now had a land flowing of milk and honey in excess. She could now feed her baby at the breast and watch her child gain weight and thrive. 

It did not end there for her. Having been through all of that, the good doctor realized there was a problem that needed to be resolved and so she began sharing her organic cookies with friends who had the same problem and it worked for them. Soon, her cookies were not for a few friends, but for other consumers who even requested to pay for them. The Milk Booster Breastfeeding Company was started and has delivered breastmilk boosters to mothers in over 30 countries. 

In Nigeria where The Milk Booster Breastingfeeding Company is based, neonatal deaths are on the rise. The death of a child attributed to a lack of breastmilk is as painful as is unbelievable. The Milk Bank Initiative was launched by Dr. Obinwanne and her team in 2022 to cater to babies who may have lost their mothers during delivery and mothers who, like she was, are unable to produce the needed breastmilk for their child. 

Dr Obinwanne hopes that this new initiative will help curb the incessant neonatal deaths in the country. According to her, apart from her cookies, mothers were coming in for breast milk for their wards, and sometimes when the mothers passed on during delivery, her outfit was contacted for breast milk supply. The inability of The Milk Booster Breastfeeding Company to come up with breast milk may result in the death of the child. There is no breast milk bank in Nigeria apart from Dr. Obinwanne’s initiative and she believes that it is high time the country made moves on that. 

In an interview with This Day, she indicated that “having a milk bank would give pre-term, low birth weight and other vulnerable infants access to the multiple benefits of breastmilk when they need it most. It would enable infants that don’t have access to mother’s milk to be able to enjoy the same benefits that infants that have access to mother’s milk enjoy.”

She added that “studies have shown that premature babies that get donor milk get to stay in the hospital for a shorter period; it has also shown that donor breast milk reduces the risk of getting Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) and other diseases that lead to neonatal mortality. Yes, it is about time Nigeria gets Milk Bank as the country with the highest infant mortality rate in Africa and the third highest rate of premature birth around the world, it is about time.”

The Milk Booster Breastfeeding Company and The Milk Bank have served over 50,000 babies worldwide with more being reached. Through volunteers, the company gets the needed milk for babies. Volunteers and the milk they produce go through processes to ensure the safety of the babies who will take in the milk. The milk is given at no cost. 

Dr Obinwanne believes it’s time the country took breast milk seriously as it has with blood banks to bring down the already high neonatal mortality rate.

Last Edited by:iboateng Updated: December 6, 2022


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