Why do 70% of Cuban mothers not exclusively breastfeed their babies?
ADRIANA ZAMORA | La Habana | 10 de Agosto de 2016 - 13:56 CEST.
World Breastfeeding Week, from 1 to 7 August, has received broad
coverage in the national press. Various efforts focus on explaining the
benefits that this type of feeding affords mothers and babies, like the
celebration of the opening of the country's ninth breast milk bank, this
time at the Camilo Cienfuegos Hospital in Sancti Spiritus.
But the promotion of breastfeeding is a task all year round for Ministry
of Public Health workers. Family neonatologists, pediatricians, doctors
and nurses are working on this issue every day.
Although breastfeeding as a form of exclusive nourishment during the
first six months is one of the practices upon which they place the most
stress, and all mothers are aware of its benefits, the official figures
presented by the media are striking: only 30% of Cuban babies are fed
only with breast milk during this stage.
What is going on at at the nursery sections of maternity hospitals?
According to Yasbell Pérez, a neonatology nurse, most mothers do want to
breastfeed their children – and are even inclined to helping by donating
their milk for other babies.
"Donations received by banks are mainly for low-weight babies, weighing
less than 1,500 grams, that need a boost in their nutrition," she explains.
"There are babies who receive milk from the banks in their first hours
because their mothers have not yet recovered, due to delivery
complications or Caesareans, but then they start up and feed their
children without any problems," she adds.
Despite the promotional campaign's insistence that there are no
justifications for not exclusively breastfeeding babies, Yasbell
recognizes that not all mothers have the same amount of milk, or milk of
the same quality.
"In those cases, we assess whether the child actually needs a booster,
and then we give the child the milk, but never before it has mother's
milk. If, after being breastfed, it is still hungry, it then gets
pasteurized milk from the bank."
Dr. Mabel, a GP, explains: "the satiety center in newborns is not yet
well developed, such that babies always want to keep getting food. So,
you have to determine whether they are crying out of a lack of nutrition
or for some other reason."
"A mother who sees her baby crying, non-stop, grows desperate," Yasbell
explains. "It is our job to give her direct and specialized care, so
that she calms down, but we always insist that the she keep trying to
breastfeed, though we give her supplementary milk."
If Cuban mothers prefer to breastfeed, and the specialists continue with
their efforts, why are the figures are so low?
"There are lots of reasons why mothers give their children other foods
during the first six months of life," says Dr. Mabel. "The least
important is that they don´t want to see their breasts deformed. This
happens in the case of actresses, models, and women whose work requires
a certain physical appearance. Cuban women in general see breastfeeding
as something inherent to their roles as mothers."
However, Mabel says that in her practice the figures are even higher
than those officially released: 90% of mothers give their babies other
foods during the first months.
"Many of my patients are the breadwinners of their households,
especially those who have jobs partially paying in cash," Mabel said.
"They have to start working as soon as possible after giving birth.
Although they have maternity leave, they cannot enjoy it as they should."
Most women simply cannot maintain the balanced diets that the nursing
period requires, and this, according to Mabel, is the main reason for
the introduction of other foods.
"Cuban women, even before getting pregnant, do not have the required
nutrition. At the start of the pregnancy a high-protein diet is
necessary, but that's impossible, due to the dearth of food," the doctor
explains. "That same diet is what breastfeeding calls for."
Cuban women usually have more than one kid, so, if one has a newborn and
another young child, for example, if that mother gets some beef, or
fruit, do you think she's going to eat it or give it to her other
child?" she reasons.
Laura, a young mother, condenses the doctor's contentions: asked why she
did not continue to exclusively breastfeed her baby daughter for three
months, she replied: "Because there's not enough food for that."
Source: Why do 70% of Cuban mothers not exclusively breastfeed their
babies? | Diario de Cuba -