Breastfeeding: a magical connection
Breastmilk is the best food and the first vaccine for children
She was a little nervous when the moment came. This was not Claudia’s first time and even though the trip to the delivery room felt easier, she could not escape the whirl of emotion, fear and joy.
Lucía was born without complications at the Maternal Hospital Gonzalez Coro in Havana. As soon as the baby came out and her reflexes were checked, Claudia and Lucía received immediate postnatal care. The magic of the first encounter, the first kiss, the first touch was a surprise. In less than an hour, Lucía was enjoying her mother’s warmth as she laid on her chest.
Claudia guides Lucía’s mouth to the nipple, from which she will feed during six months and then combine with other food until she turns 2 years old. She smiles at the thought of how easy this seems now. When her oldest daughter Natalia was born, she had no experience at all, but the nurse who assisted the delivery showed her how to put the girl on her chest properly and advised her how to make the most of breastfeeding.
Claudia has enough breastmilk to feed Lucía, she has received and searched for information, and has the support of her family, including her oldest daughter and her husband who are devoted to the baby. Claudia is at ease and transmits that peace to her daughter.
But what happens when a mother does not have the experience or the necessary support, and feelings like anxiety and depression overwhelm her? This happens in other countries, and Cuba is not exempt from that reality.
Many mothers are under the impression that they are not able to breastfeed their children because their availability of breastmilk is reduced and this generates anxiety and concern. Without proper care, anxiety can lead to the cessation or interruption of breastfeeding during the first six months and its replacement with baby formula or other foods like cow’s milk, which have a negative impact on children’s future physical and intellectual development and their immunological response to diseases.
Cubans still think that, in order to be healthy, children must be plump or almost obese, and that is one of the greatest obstacles to exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.
UNICEF supports Cuba’s efforts to maintain the results achieved in the area of maternal, child and adolescent health care, and promotes shared parenthood to guarantee the necessary accompaniment that mothers and babies need to have a successful breastfeeding experience
The pressure to return to work sometimes comes on top of the lack of knowledge about the existing regulations that allow mothers to have flexibility in their work hours so they can breastfeed their children in or outside the work environment. Workplaces must have areas where mothers can feed their babies in peace and then resume her activities. Few fathers take paternity leaves, which are necessary to accompany mothers and share house chores during the first months.
Cuba is committed to reduce newborn morbidity and mortality with 12 human milk banks in operation in the provinces of Havana, Guantánamo, Santiago de Cuba, Holguín, Granma, Las Tunas, Cienfuegos, Camagüey, Sancti Spíritus, Pinar del Río, Villa Clara and Matanzas
Breastfeeding is the best source of food for children, it is also their first vaccine because of the countless benefits it offers to their health. The production and consumption of human breastmilk does not generate pollution, packing or waste, thus the urgent need to protect, promote and support it for the sake of people and the planet’s health.
Claudia and her family have no doubt this is not achieved in a day or a week. It is a constant endeavour in which everyone is involved: mothers, fathers, families, health professionals, the community and society in general. Claudia is happy and she transmits that happiness to her daughter.