Mommy, the breast is best
"No man, it won't hurt them at all," said one woman as she placed a piece of chicken leg on the lips of her four-month old baby at her home in rural Manchester.
This scenario is common among mothers who feel that it is necessary for babies to acquire the taste of real food as early as possible. But according to nurse Mernel Genius, this must never happen.
"I have heard mothers saying that babies do not get enough from the breast and the babies want formula or supplementation. They say the breast will get long and saggy if they breastfeed and that is not true. If the breast is long and saggy, it is not as a result of breastfeeding."
Genius, who has been a nurse for 18 years, has seen it all and says that giving your baby food outside of breast milk can cause malnourishment and even severe cases of allergic reactions.
"Some mothers give their children water, bush tea, even ackee and salt fish, milk, mackerel, simply anything they are having. They claim wiping it across the baby's mouth will not harm the baby. People will continue to have their bizarre beliefs, but we are saying anything outside of breast milk for the first six months is a no-no. No food, no fruit juice, no supplement breast milk only."
There are mothers who find it difficult to breastfeed for a number of reasons. Nurse Genius suggests that the mothers try breast pumps and help the baby get lactation right.
"It will hurt if the baby is not properly latched on the breast. The dark area on the nipple, called the areola, is to go into the baby's mouth as much as possible so the baby is sucking directly on the nipple."
At a recent breastfeeding awareness campaign at the Mandeville Regional Hospital to promote, protect and support breastfeeding, regional dietitian at the hospital Marie Powell said the breast is able to feedmany children.
"We are of the assumption that the breast will not provide enough milk for the child to have adequate nutrition and that is not true. Our breasts are able to feed twins and triplets. The more you empty the breast, the more it fills up."
Regional director at the Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA) Michael Bent, who was also present, encouraged fathers to play their role in facilitating breastfeeding.
"Breastfeeding is a social responsibility. Lack of breastfeeding can cause malnutrition, and, fathers, I am encouraging you to give the mothers the emotional support so they can produce the milk. Imagine saving the money you would use to buy formula for six months to be used for something else".
"Love your children and bond with them. I want you to help us spread the message of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months to mothers and fathers to avoid lifelong effects, ensure food security, and break the cycle of poverty," he ended.
Leith-Ann Fagan, who has two months to go before she is able to breastfeed, says it is only fair that she gives her child the best care.
"Nothing but breast milk is what I'll be giving my baby. I don't know why people would choose to give baby food. I don't want anything to happen to my baby. Babies are so fragile and so vulnerable. I don't want to harm by baby. I don't follow up with the myths, I just want to go through the proper medical channels."