By Anielka Jirón.- Fernanda Valdez, a 22-year-old doctor from the municipality of Ocotal in Nueva Segovia, starts her working day at eight in the morning and finishes at five in the evening. But although her profession demands a lot of her time, she has managed to find a balance between her vocation of serving the community and her personal life.
After she and her partner took the decision to have a child, the experience of being a mother for the first time has changed her life. She now gets up with the special motivation of breastfeeding her baby.
Sebastián Alvarado was born six months ago and has the right growth for his age because his mother has exclusively breastfed him on demand. “He stays healthy and has put on enough weight,” says Fernanda. “Thank God he hasn’t got sick, because I always breastfeed him. He weighs 21 pounds and measures 68 centimetres.”
Fernanda tries never to miss feeding Sebastián. She breastfeeds him before going to work and while she is out of the house her mum gives him two cups of milk that Fernanda has extracted from her breasts to ensure her son continues receiving the necessary nutrients for his healthy growth. She returns home at midday to leave another two cups of milk, and she also breastfeeds Sebastián at night. “It’s nice to breastfeed,” she explains, “because it strengthens the bond between mother and child, and also milk is the first vaccine that guarantees he’ll grow up strong.”
Valdez says that many women are unaware of the techniques for manually extracting breast milk and that a lack of knowledge also facilitates the persistence of false beliefs about its quality and adequate storage. For example, women generally believe that breast milk goes off if left at room temperature or that it loses its nutrients if refrigerated.
“The nutritional requirements are maintained as the child grows, so the milk is provided according to the amount of milk demanded,” Fernanda explains. “And breast milk lasts for 24 hours in a natural environment and for several weeks if refrigerated.”
Support from the woman’s family and partner is a facilitating factor when it comes to promoting exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of the child’s life. Fernanda stresses that breastfeeding lies at the heart of the family because it is an expression of love and protection. “I would advise working mums that it is possible to feed your baby with just breast milk,” she concludes.
Breastfeeding is a responsibility shared by employers
Fernanda has permission at work to extend her lunch hour by a few minutes to breastfeed her baby and she also has the right to be absent from work to keep up with her child’s vaccination scheme during his first year of life.
Companies and work centres are key allies when it comes to promoting breastfeeding. It is the duty of employers to provide counselling to women during pregnancy and following their postnatal reintegration on issues related to maternal nutrition, breastfeeding and early stimulation, along with sexual and reproductive health counselling for family planning.
In Nicaragua, the Law on Promoting, Protecting and Maintaining Breastfeeding (Law No. 295), passed in 1999, establishes the necessary measures for protecting, promoting and maintaining natural breastfeeding, which helps maintain the nutritional status of babies.