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Aug 23, 2018

Healthy Living: Working Moms Who Successfully Breastfeed

If you’re expecting or a new mom, you may have noticed that breastfeeding – specifically exclusive breastfeeding – is being promoted all over. Celebrities, health officials, all the baby sites you subscribe to, even the public hospitals and a few clinics here in Belize are highlighting the benefits of breastfeeding.  But six months of being the sole food provider for your little one may seem like an arduous task for any mom; especially for one who knows she’s going to have to head back to work. Rest assured that others have successfully done it…and in tonight’s Healthy Living we’ll find out how they did.


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months of a baby’s life. Exclusive – meaning no formula, no water, absolutely nothing other than the milk from the mother’s breast. It is a commitment that proves beneficial in multiple ways as PAHO’s N.C.D. Focal Point, Doctor Jorge Polanco explains.


Jorge Polanco

Dr. Jorge Polanco, INCAP Country Coordinator, PAHO NCD Focal Point

“The benefits for the infant includes refers to whereby the infants receives through the breast milk all the antibodies that he or she may need to protect against bacterial infections.  Children who are breastfed have a higher IQ and that in itself means that the potential the possibilities for that infant to become a child and go through primary school then high school the likelihood of him succeeding improves simply because of that IQ.   And we have benefits to the mother which are very directly also shown in multiple studies whereby there is a significant decrease as much as twenty-three to twenty-four percent of ovarian cancer in the women as a significant about twenty-five percent decrease in breast cancer in women who breastfeed.”


These short and long term benefits for both the infants and their moms are why there’s been an increase in exclusive breastfeeding promotion – which seems to be working. A survey conducted by UNICEF every five years shows an increase in exclusive breastfeeding in the last three consecutive surveys from nine to fourteen percent to the last results in 2015 recording thirty-three percent. Increased awareness and accessibility to the information is what led first time mothers Luwani Cayetano and Kim Vasquez to decide to pursue exclusive breastfeeding but being first time mothers they both admitted to having much different expectations than what the reality would be.


Kim Vasquez

Kim Vasquez, Exclusive Breastfeeding Advocate

“It was totally unlike what I thought it would be. I thought I would just have the baby and put my baby to my breast and it would just be like Instagram perfect. It was painful. I cried. I wanted to give up. I said I would give up but I push through and you know what happen is that you eventually find your rhythm you find a position that works even though, like I said, my baby tongue tie we were able to find a technique that was comfortable for us.”


Luwani Cayetano

Luwani Cayetano, Exclusive Breastfeeding Advocate

“Before I had my baby, I thought that it would just be the most natural, easiest thing and that it would just happen. I thought – this will sound so crazy – the milk would just flow like you’d turn on a tap and it would just flow.  The first lesson was that it’s not as easy as it seems. That it hurts a lot. We don’t really talk about that part.  It was really difficult, but when we connected, then it got a bit easier. But it’s never something I would say was so easy.”


One of the biggest hurdles in maintaining the exclusive nursing for six months is going back to work. Maternity benefits only provide for fourteen weeks out of office, so working moms can anticipate spending the last few weeks or months of the exclusive breastfeeding journey back in the office.


Luwani Cayetano

“The first thing I bought was a breast pump because I knew I had to go back to work. Then I spoke to my boss. I had a conversation with the office about what I would need what my scheduling would be like. Thankfully within our environment we do have a policy that promotes breastfeeding.”


Kim Vasquez

“Thankfully I had a pediatrician that was very sportive and he said to me Kim, you need to contact your HR department and ask that what is the policy for breastfeeding mother where you work. So that was the first thing I did. I took his advice. I call the HR manager and asked what is the breastfeeding policy here at NICH and she said well I don’t think we have one because no one has ever asked.”


Luckily her workplace obliged. They created a policy that allowed Kim to have an extended lunch hour and she was given a clean and comfortable space at work to pump during the workday.


Kim Vasquez

“I can only imagine how awkward it must be if your HR manager is a man. Luckily, mine at the time was a female and mother herself so I think I did have it a little easy.  I had a relative of mine our babies were just a few months apart and she sadly it broke my heart because we’re just four months apart and where I was given air conditioned very comfortable room to go pump my breast milk. She was told to use the bathroom. Now you would not take your plate of food and go through the toiled and eat and that’s really what it boils down to.”


Kim’s and Luwani’s experiences show how a supportive workplace increases the likelihood of successful exclusively breastfeeding. But not all working mothers have this type of support which is why there are continued efforts in legislating the policy.


Dr. Jorge Polanco

“In April of 2016, our Ministry of Health in partnership with the other ministers of Central America COMISCA, they gave a mandate to INCAP to begin working along with PAHO to set up a legislative framework for the promotion of breastfeeding.”


Kim Vasquez

“If you would think that you could give your employee the peace of mind or do whatever you could support her in what she’s trying to do to provide for her child then she would perform better on the job.”


Luwani Cayetano

“In the grand scheme of thing it’s not a lot of time that you are facilitating that space. Being able to facilitate that, your employee is happier, the child I happier and the country benefits.”


Both mothers gave much credit to supportive colleagues and spouses. As Kim mentioned, she continued to breastfeed her daughter Eliana for twenty-two months and Luwani’s son, Anichi, who just recently turned one is still receiving breast milk.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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