Not many people know this, but my degree from UTech was in Child and Adolescent Development. So I know about the benefits of breastfeeding and it’s always been something I wanted to do when I was ready to be a mother.
So it’s doubly important for me as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador that more mothers are able to breastfeed. We’re recommended as mothers to breastfeed for six months, but in Jamaica right now the average is just three weeks.
This is so sad, because so many children won’t get the health and development benefits my son Zyon is getting. He’s now nine months old, I competed for the first time as a mother last Saturday, and while I’ve introduced fruit and vegetables, I am still happily supplementing with breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding at nine months
My experience makes it all the more important for me to support the UNICEF Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. BFHI is about certifying hospitals who have the necessary practices and standard to support mothers to breastfeed.
Currently we have just two baby-friendly hospitals in Jamaica: Alexandria Community Hospital in St Ann and Princess Margaret Hospital in St Thomas. The Ministry of Health is trying to get another seven certified by UNICEF by April 2019.
We really have to get there. And when I think back to the support I got in hospital, I want all other mothers in Jamaica to have that experience too. It can be challenging. It was for me, but that support, that really helped me.
Supportive hospital staff
When I got Zyon I instantly fell in love when from I put him on my breast. I was looking straight into his eyes and he was just looking at me and looking for the breast.
My son had no problems latching. I’ve always heard stories ‘Oh my baby didn’t latch and my nipples were hurting me.’ But for me it wasn’t like that.
But what happened was when I was breastfeeding him my breasts were hurting me – and there was nothing coming.
Need more trained nurses
And I said ‘Nurse there’s nothing coming!’ But she said ‘It will come, just keep doing it’ and she was really encouraging me to continue, and I remember turning to her. I said to her: ‘Do not under any circumstances give my child any formula! I do not want my child to have any formula because I want to breastfeed my baby.’
We need more nurses who are BHFI-trained so that they can give the right information to the mothers and not force them. When moms say ‘Oh I’m not able to breastfeed’ … they shouldn’t just say ‘Oh, OK, here’s some formula’. No.
We need to encourage mothers and try to give them information about breastfeeding and the benefits of breastfeeding and take the time. Because what I found is that for a lot of persons, because we have an alternative we’re forcing the alternative. We’re not maximizing what we have and what is best – breastfeeding!
Making the right decisions
When I had my child I was fortunate. There was a lactation specialist who came immediately to my room to talk to me about breastfeeding, about the advantages of the breast, engorged breasts, mastitis, latching and stuff like that..
That’s what we need with baby-friendly hospitals – having all that information in front of us, so that we can make the right decisions.