This year’s World Breastfeeding Week is a call to action to facilitate breastfeeding for working women. In the HAS service area, many mothers work physically demanding jobs that make it difficult for them to breastfeed. The greatest challenge to breastfeeding in the Lower Artibonite Valley, however, is a lack of awareness and education about its benefits and about the proper techniques. In our service area, many women incorrectly believe that by supplementing their breast milk with teas, other kinds of milk, and water, they are providing needed additions to their baby’s diet. Others are too quick to abandon breastfeeding because of breast infection or latching problems.
While breastfeeding is important everywhere, it is particularly so in Haiti. Breast milk is uniquely tailored to the nutritional needs of an infant, as its contents change throughout the day to meet the baby’s needs. It is allergy proof, easily digested, and helps babies fight infection by boosting immunity. What’s more, it contains at least 100 ingredients that are not found in cow’s milk and that cannot be synthesized for infant formula. In Haiti, where risks for illness and infection are multiplied, the consequences of not breastfeeding can be serious.
To overcome these hurdles, HAS promotes breastfeeding awareness in the hospital and in the community. The malnutrition ward features murals depicting women breastfeeding and attending community health posts. Signs and posters are placed throughout the hospital. Nurses and community health workers educate women about the importance and proper techniques of breastfeeding during pre- and post-natal care in health centers and in the home.
By educating the community on the importance of breastfeeding, this week and every week, we encourage men and women alike to recognize that breastfeeding safeguards a baby’s health for life. Murkoff, Heidi, and Sharon Mazel. What to Expect the First Year. 1990. New York: Workman Publishing, 2014. Print.