Nurturing bonds one feeding at a time
How UNICEF and the Human Milk Bank Foundation are helping refugee mothers to learn breastfeeding and prepare for the motherhood
Bringing a new life into the world is a remarkable journey but it also comes with its own set of challenges. From sleepless nights to worrying about the child’s wellbeing and safety, motherhood requires a lot of adjustment and strength. For refugee mothers, this journey is even more challenging. Living in constant uncertainty, they experience anxiety, stress and worries.
Viktoria and Mariana came from Ukraine to Poland after the war escalated in February 2022, seeking safety. Both gave birth in Poland, a place that was new to them. It was different from what they had imagined it would be.
Breastfeeding her newborn son Andrzej wasn’t easy for Viktoria, who came to Krakow from Khmelnytskyi Oblast. That made the young mother even more stressed, as she wanted to provide the best care for her baby. “We had some problems at the beginning. Andrzej did not want to eat and needed to learn how to do it. That was before I received free lactation consultations.”
The refugee crisis affected women and children in particular, and thus posed new challenges for the Polish maternity and lactation care system. In response, UNICEF partnered with the Human Milk Bank Foundation to support mothers in the proper nutrition of children. The project works to promote exclusive breastfeeding, raise the level of care for women in perinatal crisis and expand services in hospitals.
Guidance and support
“Mothers who come to Poland because of the war need a lot of support, especially emotional support, language help and even a kind word,” says Olga Stetsiuk.
“Mothers who come to Poland because of the war need a lot of support, especially emotional support, language help and even a kind word.”
Olga works as a lactation specialist in Ujastek Maternity and Gynecology Hospital in Krakow, one of the hospitals participating in the project. Similarly to Mariana and Viktoria, Olga is from Ukraine, which is comforting for the new mothers. Olga is able to better understand their journeys and what they have been through. Olga helped Viktoria navigate the challenges, offering guidance and reassurance every step of the way. They worked together to establish a successful breastfeeding routine, ensuring that baby Andrzej received the vital nutrients and a bond that only a mother's milk could provide.
Mariana, who came to Poland from Kiyv, was trying to find support as she was preparing for her delivery after arriving to Poland. She researched a lot to understand how to take care of the newborn and breastfeed her future daughter, Anna. She quickly found the information about UNICEF’s and Human Milk Bank Foundation’s program through Olga, who messaged her back and supported her right from the very beginning.
“This program creates awareness about breastfeeding and debunks all the myths about it. Breastfeeding is a beautiful process.”
“This program creates awareness about breastfeeding and debunks all the myths about it. Breastfeeding is a beautiful process,” says Mariana, Anna’s mother.
As Viktoria and Mariana watched their babies thrive, they felt a sense of calmness and gratitude. They knew that their struggles had been met with kindness and genuine care, offering them a sense of belonging and renewed hope for the future.
“Thanks to the program mothers have “wings behind them” knowing that they can always get help,” says Olga proudly.