Breastfeeding Myths in Doberçan, Kosovo*

Exclusive breastfeeding is the best way to give children the healthiest start in life and it is one of the simplest, smartest and most cost-effective ways to help children survive and thrive.

Nurse Minire as seen in front of the family health center in Doberçan.
28 October 2017

Exclusive breastfeeding is the best way to give children the healthiest start in life and it is one of the simplest, smartest and most cost-effective ways to help children survive and thrive.

Minire Xhelili is the only nurse conducting home visits in the town of Doberçan with 5000 to 7000 residents—she does this in addition to providing health services at the center. She has been working in the town for 34 years and has a reputation among locals as a nurse who has spent a lifetime contributing to the wellbeing of mothers and children of the town.

"Fortunately, the doors are always open for me among the locals,” Minire says. “Having worked here for 34 years, I practically grew old together with the townspeople, we know each-other and trust each-other.”

As she begins her long walk to reach a mother who has given birth earlier this year, Minire explains that this is the 4th time she is visiting her for a check-up. “In the spring of this year, I discovered [in family health center files] that Antigona was pregnant and was due to give birth soon,” Minire says. “As I was conducting a routine health-checkup, I saw that she had three other kids. I found out that she hadn’t breast-fed any of her children, due to perceived insufficient mother milk.”   

Minire explains that perceived insufficient milk is highly common among mothers in this town and she has been trying to address these misconceptions and educate mothers about the lifelong benefits of breastfeeding.

“A day after she gave birth, I conducted a third home visit [first visit for the newborn] to assess the health of the infant, and I saw that Antigona had already bought a bottle,” Minire says. “Again she told me that she was really afraid that her baby wouldn’t get enough nutrition from breastfeeding alone.” With many mothers, it takes several visits and honest and respectful communication to ensure that vital information on the wellbeing of newborns is properly imparted. “After the third visit, and after careful counsel and support during the breastfeeding process, such as showing her proper ways to holding the baby, Antigona finally agreed to start breastfeeding her baby exclusively,” says Minire. “She called me a few days later thanking me and explaining that—as I suspected—she had no trouble breastfeeding the baby.”

Experience has taught Minire that in home visits one has to always ensure respect and confidentiality, use a flexible approach to exploring attitudes, and refrain from making judgements. For years, this approach has provided me with ability to provide appropriate advice. “I need a good hour to properly counsel and give mothers and children the attention they require,” she says.

Once inside Antigona’s home, Minire is met with the smiles of a healthy 11-month-old baby named Amar. “I listened to Minire’s advice, and I exclusively breastfed Amar for the first 6 months,” says Antigona.

 “Minire taught me about breastfeeding, about how to give proper care and attention to a newborn, medicine usage, the importance of play in brain development, and much more,” she says. The [home visiting] programme did not exist when my other children were infants (…) If these counseling services were offered a few years ago, I would have known much sooner about the importance of breastfeeding, and used that knowledge to ensure the wellbeing of my children.”

“Home visiting is a great advantage for families living in the village because we are located far away from the city and it brings these essential services directly to our homes. Minire closely monitored my baby, and visited me as many times as I needed. This is something I wish every mother could have.”

After the visit is completed and Minire makes her way back to the family medicine center, there’s a look of contentment on her face. “Today I feel happy,” she exclaims. “The baby is doing well.”