Mother and baby corners for healthier and happier babies
Through mother and baby corners, UNICEF in Serbia has been supporting infant and young child feeding in emergencies.
Presevo and Bujanovac, Serbia - Nabila, who is twenty-five, came to Serbia in late 2016, after travelling for two years from Afghanistan.
She arrived in the Presevo Refugee and Migrant Reception Centre, arm in arm with her husband and two children. She was pregnant, tired and scared.
Nabila found a safe space in the UNICEF-supported mother and baby corner (MBC) in the Centre. In this bright and warm room, Nabila sought advice on pregnancy, nutrition and hygiene.
That’s why, when the time came to give birth to her daughter Sanu, she was fully prepared.
“I didn’t know much about breastfeeding. In Afghanistan, babies breastfeed for the first 40 days, and then we give them baby food. Here, I’ve learnt that babies should breastfeed for the first 6 months,” says Nabila.
Visiting nurses, or friends as she now calls them, also taught her how to overcome difficulties with breastfeeding – painful and engorged breasts, how to hold Sanu while breastfeeding, and how to introduce solid food later on.
“I didn’t even know how to bathe the baby because in Afghanistan the husband's mother does that. Visiting nurses taught me how to prepare a bath and how to wash Sanu. Now I also change her diapers on my own”, Nabila tells us proudly.
Sanu is a playful and curious nine-month-old baby. She is cooing, signalling that she’s hungry. It’s time to breastfeed.
Nabila, now a cheerful and smiling young woman, sees us off saying: “If I have another baby, I’ll know how to do everything.”
Some thirty kilometres from Presevo, at the mother and baby corner in the Bujanovac Reception Centre in, Fatime and Tahani are playing with their daughters.
Fatmire, a visiting nurse, is in the MBC with them. Her most important task in the previous months has been to explain the importance of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months.
Breastfeeding is more than a meal - it provides love, boosts the immune system, and stimulates development.
For moms like Fatime and Tahani, it’s particularly important. In emergencies, breastmilk is always available, it’s safe, and nutritious.
Fatime, 25, from Iran has been in the Bujanovac Reception Centre with her husband and daughter Kejal for five months. She spends several hours every day at the mother and baby corner.
“I learnt about breastfeeding in my country, from my mother. But when I came here I learnt how to have more milk. They told me to drink more liquids.
At the Corner, they helped me to bathe Kejal, but also how to include solid food in her diet. Now they advise me on appropriate games for her age. For example, she’s supposed to learn colours now, as well as shapes. It’s a way for her to learn to be creative”, Fatime explains.
Mothers often come to the MBC alone – to relax, get some rest, socialise, listen to music, but also to participate in educational workshops.
“I feel comfortable because it’s so clean here and the nurses always care about the babies, about the details. It’s like part of my home here”, Fatime says with a smile.
Her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter Kejal also likes playing in the MBC. She’s often there with Naja from Syria, who is 13 months old. Her mom Tahani, has two more children, so she is familiar with the benefits of breastfeeding. Still, the time spent at the mother and baby corner is the best part of her day. That’s where she breastfeeds Naja, plays with her, and teaches her to talk.
“It’s very clean, they have everything for the baby, diapers, for showering, food. The staff is also very good. If this place wasn’t here, maybe I wouldn’t be here either. I love this place so much”, says Tahani.
Through mother and baby corners, UNICEF in Serbia has been supporting infant and young child feeding in emergencies. From the start of the refugee and migrant crisis until the end of 2017, UNICEF has reached 8,600 children and 6,200 mothers through support provided in mother and baby corners.
And Nabila, Fatime and Tahani are among them. Their futures may be uncertain, but they’re confident that the services provided in the mother and baby corners are crucial for the health and development of their children.