An essential ‘early start’ for tiny babies offers parents a breather

Netcare and Babies R Us team up to supply baby essentials fit for very low birthweight babies
Monday, September 26 2022

A new initiative between Netcare and Babies R Us offers parents of babies born weighing less than 1.5kg a little extra support, with a ‘starter kit’ bag containing essential products and information to cater for these tiny babies’ unique needs for the first few days after birth.

"Parents of babies born so prematurely are often under a great deal of stress, and the neonatal intensive care unit [NICU] staff offer them support throughout their baby’s stay,” says Verena Bolton, national co-ordinator of Netcare Ncelisa human milk banks.

“With the generous sponsorship of these Early Start Essentials bags for the very low birthweight premature babies cared for in Netcare hospital NICUs, parents won’t need to worry about having to source these basic essentials during the busy, precious, and emotional first days of their babies’ lives.”

“Netcare NICU managers have compiled a list of items specifically suited to the unique needs of these babies, as parents may not have had the time to buy these due to their baby’s unexpected premature birth,” Bolton explains.

Starter items in the Early Start Essentials bag include nappies for preterm babies, wipes, barrier bum cream and skin lotion suited to preterm babies’ skin, breast pads, and non-alcoholic hand sanitiser.

Given that breastmilk is invaluable in building premature babies’ immune system, the bag therefore also includes a cooler bag for transporting breastmilk, a breastmilk storage bottle and storage bags which enable mothers to provide a continuous supply of breastmilk for their babies. Research has suggested that conditions such as type 2 diabetes and obesity may be prevented through breastfeeding.

“The products align with the guidance of the World Health Organization (WHO) that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months, wherever possible, as this is recognised as the best nutritional start for a young life,” adds Bolton.

“The Early Start Essentials bags, which are purple to match the theme colour for Prematurity Awareness, also include a journal for the parents to capture the time they spent in the NICU with their baby. Contained within the journal is advice on enhancing breastmilk production and pages to capture special moments and thoughts, add photographs of momentous events such as the first cuddle with mom and dad, and more,” Bolton says.

Pic: Verena Bolton, national co-ordinator of Netcare Ncelisa human milk banks, is pictured with Irene and Mathepela Hlakotsa, parents of premature twins Thabo and Nyakallo, with Ronel Grant, Head of Wellness at Babies R Us, at the launch of the Early Start Essentials bags specially developed for the needs of babies born weighing less than 1.5kg.
Pic: Ashleigh Stone, brand manager at Babies R Us, and Sr Lesego Tloteng, neonatal intensive care unit manager at Netcare Park Lane Hospital, are pictured handing an Early Start Essentials bag to Nazreen and Dawood Alli, parents of very low birthweight baby, Sarinnah Noor.


Immune protection from mother’s milk
“Numerous studies have shown that feeding babies breastmilk only, for at least the first half-year of a child’s life, protects against a host of illnesses and non-communicable diseases and offers the optimal nourishment a baby needs for their development. For premature, very low birthweight babies, such as those who we care for in our NICUs, age appropriate breastmilk is especially beneficial because these babies often have minimal, if any, acquired or innate immune protection,” she says.

“At Babies R Us, we celebrate the journey of parenthood, and we’re delighted to partner with Netcare on this important initiative. The Early Start Essentials bag will provide practical support to parents of very low weight babies, emphasising the importance and benefits of breastfeeding. Babies R Us is highly committed to providing parents with solutions tailored to their family’s needs,” says Michelle Burke, Director of Babies R Us.
“Our partnership with Netcare is made possible by the continued support of key suppliers, enabling us to produce the Babies R Us NICU Journal – ‘From Bump to Baby’, which is included in The Early Start Essentials bag. We understand that every moment with baby is precious and our journal encourages parents to capture these special memories on their journey,” says Ronel Grant, Head of Wellness at Babies R Us.

Breastmilk donation – a priceless gift
Babies R Us have also donated large cooler bags to Netcare NICUs for transporting donated breastmilk to premature babies whose mothers are unable to supply breastmilk for their babies. The Netcare Foundation, through Netcare Ncelisa milk banks, supplies donated breastmilk at no cost to eligible newborns, both within the public and private sectors.

“To help make breastmilk accessible to as many premature, vulnerable and high risk babies, as possible, we encourage mothers who understand the important benefits of breastmilk to become donors,” Bolton says.

Prospective donors are screened for a number of health conditions that could impact the safety of the milk and must complete a lifestyle questionnaire and consent form. They are then provided with information on how to safely express, store and transport their milk to a Netcare Ncelisa milk bank or depot at the Group’s maternity units. “Women who are interested in becoming donors are welcome to contact any Netcare hospital with maternity facilities for more information,” she adds.

“The WHO points out that, over the longer term, breastmilk and breastfeeding are crucial for early childhood nutrition and development and are associated with higher intelligence and greater earning potential later in life. This in turn can positively contribute to the financial wellbeing of individual families, as well as national economies.1 Giving babies nature’s best start in life provides priceless benefits,” Bolton concludes.



To find out more about the services offered through Netcare hospitals and other of the Group’s facilities, please contact Netcare’s customer service centre either by email at [email protected] or phone 0860 NETCARE (0860 638 2273). Note that the centre operates Mondays to Fridays from 08:00 to 16:00.

Looking for a medical appointment? Netcare appointmed™ will make appointments with specialists practising at Netcare hospitals, GPs and dentists at Medicross medical and dental centres, and specialists at Akeso mental health facilities for YOU. Simply phone Netcare appointmed™ on 0860 555 565, Mondays to Fridays between 08:00 and 17:00, or go online at to request an appointment.

For more information on this media release, contact MNA at the contact details listed below.

Issued by:    MNA on behalf of Netcare and Babies R Us
Contact:    Martina Nicholson, Meggan Saville or Estene Lotriet-Vorster
Telephone:    (011) 469 3016
Email:    [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]