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Breastfeeding, proof of a mother's love

© UNICEF/2010/Latif
Artika Sari Devi, enjoys her new roles as a breastfeeding counselor and mother.

JAKARTA, 23 April, 2010 - Artika Sari Devi, Miss Indonesia 2004, is truly enjoying her new role as mother to Sarah Abiela Ibrahim.  Four months ago, her baby girl came into her life.

A joyous part of her new role is breastfeeding Abiela.

“The way Abiela looks right into my eyes when she is breastfeeding strengthens the bond between us. It’s difficult to put into words. Breastmilk gives her all the nutrition she needs to survive and thrive, helps her IQ development. Its antibodies protect her,” said the TV presenter and actress, who usually goes by the name of Tika.

“It must be because of the oxytocin hormone is flowing right into my body when I breastfeed. It gives me huge comfort and increases my confidence as a mother,” Tika added.

The Masters Degree graduate in Law Studies from Universitas Gajah Mada believes in the importance of breastfeeding after a long learning process. With her husband, Ibrahim Imran, Tika trawled the internet, read up on dozens of books on pregnancies and motherhood and peppered questions to her family and friends. She even enrolled in a 40-hour breastfeeding counselling training session held by the Indonesian Breastfeeding Centre.

"The Oxytocin hormone is flowing right into my body and gives me huge comfort and increases my confidence as a mother."

Tika is now proficient in answering questions about breastfeeding. An issue that often comes up is that women’s breast will sag and change their appearance because of breastfeeding. Is that true? 

“Life itself takes a toll on our breasts,” she said briskly. “Age, weight gain or loss, pregnancy, the effects of gravity and, yes, breastfeeding affects the way your breast looks. Women have to maintain their weight, eat nutritious food and exercise to have a great body when they are busy looking after their babies.”

One of the advantages of breastfeeding for women is that it helps to decrease body weight gained during pregnancy, said Tika whose body weight increased to 63 kg. She now weighs 51 kg, “even though I can eat five times a day. I devour a huge bowl of vegetable soup in one sitting.”

Although born in Bangka Belitung on 29 September 1979, Tika’s family is from Solo. She followed traditional post birth body treatments such as drinking herbal tonics (jamu), massages and body scrubs (lulur) as well as body wraps (bengkung) for several days after birth.

The support of her husband and family helped her greatly.  Nevertheless, she had to overcome several hurdles. During Abiela’s birth, Tika’s blood pressure soared.  Her doctors said she may have to undergo a Caesarean although in the end the procedure was unnecessary. After birth, Abiela’s high levels of bilirubin turned her skin jaundice forcing her doctors to give her a blue light therapy. Tika did not want her newborn to be by herself so she was also blindfolded and cuddled her baby in the nude while a blue light shone on both of them for her first hours of life.

As a young mother, tiredness and frustration overwhelmed her at times. It was better, she said, to hand over Abiela to her mother or husband while she stepped out of the house to calm herself down and get rid of her stress. Later, her breast milk would flow again.

 “As a breastfeeding husband, I also help Tika in many ways,” said Ibrahim who accompanied his wife to antenatal classes learning the right techniques of holding the baby and breastfeeding.

The couple is committed that Tika breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and then continue breastfeeding with supplementary feeding till the baby is two years old.

Tika who will return to her busy schedule of shooting for her films in April and says her director and crew support her breastfeeding.

Dr Utami Roesli, the head of the Indonesian breastfeeding centre is one of Tika’s advisers during the counsellor training, said it is increasingly becoming easy for mothers to reach for formula milk because of a perception that they cannot breastfeed or it’s far more practical to give formula milk.

Some women believe that breastfeeding are only for the poor who do not have money to buy formula milk which is far superior because it has additives that can help a child become a genius. Formula milk fed babies get diarrhoea more easily as the water to mix the formula and the bottle and teats are sometime not sterilized properly, she said adding that the babies are also prone to develop allergies. Children are also prone to be overweight when formula milk fed.

UNICEF, the world’s body for children, is working with several bodies such as the Indonesian breastfeeding centre, the Health Ministry to shape supporting policies, conduct breastfeeding and good infant supplementary feeding counselling training and support the implementation of the International Code Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.

 “Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months can save more than 30,000 babies in Indonesia every year,” said Sonia Blaney, the Head of Nutrition in UNICEF Indonesia.

Tika is well aware of how importance breastfeeding is not only for her baby and herself. She is willing to appear on TV, radio and the print media to promote breastfeeding.

“Breastfeeding is beautiful and natural. Women can remain beautiful and maintain her ideal weight and body shape while breastfeeding.”





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