Fulfilling an Incomplete Joy
Almost hopeless, Asma finally succeeds to breastfeed her newborn with the help of the healthcare unit nurse
- Available in:
At the Directorate of Basioun, Gharbia Governorate in the Delta of Egypt, Asmaa's family held a celebration for the arrival of baby Anas, Asmaa's first son after 10 years of trying to conceive.
The joy was all over the faces of the family except Asmaa who seemed sad, exhausted and anxious rather than happy.
She looked at the sleeping little Anas and thought: "My joy was incomplete because my son was not breastfeeding after what I heard about the benefits of its benefits. He can't feel my kindness as I carry him in my arms."
Motherhood at a difficult time
Asmaa became pregnant amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Egypt. With the growing pressure on the country's health system and fear of infection, she couldn't go for pregnancy follow-up at the healthcare unit as she planned. However, she was receiving ongoing support from nurses in her village's healthcare unit. Those nurses were trained by UNICEF to provide perinatal care, especially in such difficult circumstances. About the nurse who followed up with her, Asmaa says: "She called regularly while I was pregnant and was very supportive. That's why she was the first one I called for help after I couldn't breastfeed."
Asmaa, like many new mothers, was under a lot of family pressure to resort to formula feeding in the early days after delivery for not being able to breastfeed her son. The pressure was even more considering that she spent many years trying to conceive and made too anxious to deal with the common latching problem that was preventing her baby from breastfeeding. She says: "One day after birth, my husband's family were all fighting with me saying stuff like: are you the first one to give birth or breastfeed? If you can't breastfeed your son, you have to give him formula as the baby is weak."
With all these negative comments and myths about breastfeeding, Asmaa was desperate and crying with her baby all the time. Next day, there was a turning point: an exceptional home visit from the follow-up nurse.
Visit of Abla Reda
The nurse, who Asmaa calls "Abla Reda", examined the baby and explained that he is not underweight or in need of formula milk. She trained Asmaa on breastfeeding positions and how to help her child with latching. Abla Reda also spoke with Asmaa's husband and mother-in-law to convince them of the importance of breastfeeding for the health and immunity of Anas, as well as their great role as family members in helping her breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of Anas's life as per the guidelines.
The words of Abla Reda were initially accepted by Asmaa's family, especially when the nurse explained the great financial burden of formula milk on the already-distressed family due to the pandemic.
In a few days, Asmaa was able to easily breastfeed Anas without the need of adding formula milk. Her joy was indescribable. She was eventually able to give her baby the best possible food at the beginning of his life, specially that he is, as described by Abla Reda, "a long-awaited precious child thirsty for his mother's tenderness."
How does UNICEF support breastfeeding?
UNICEF supports the scaling up of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative to encourage early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.
The organization also invests in capacity building of healthcare workers, raising public awareness and addressing social norms regarding infant and young children nutrition practices.
This is done through the development of a national communication strategy, as well as raising awareness and communicating with the public through WhatsApp and the 1000 days page run by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health and Population.