Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Breastfeeding: Working mothers called for policy change to secure children’s future

Guilhermina de Araújo, a working mother from the private sector shared her experiences
during discussion. ©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2018/ahelin
DILI, Timor-Leste, 2018 – “When I was pregnant I thought breastfeeding would be easy, but it wasn’t,” 30-year-old mother Guilhermina de Araújo told the crowd gathered in Dili’s historic Resistance Museum on a quiet Tuesday morning for the second UNICEF Café conversation.

“When I delivered, I had no breastmilk. The doctor asked me to try for the baby, but for three days I still didn’t have breastmilk. I gave him formula, and then he became sick, vomiting, jaundiced, inflamed stomach, and I was scared, so I called a midwife friend who asked me what I gave him. I said formula, and she told me to take him to the hospital.”

Guilhermina’s experience isn’t unusual. Data from the recently published 2016 Demographic Health Survey (DHS) shows just one in two mothers in Timor-Leste are exclusively breastfeeding their children for the recommended first six months of life, down from 52 per cent reported in the 2010 DHS. Worryingly, the decline was most notable in better-off, educated women living in urban areas, where poverty rates are lower.

In response, UNICEF Timor-Leste today hosted the second in its series of UNICEF Café events, calling together a panel of women from across the private and public sectors to share experiences over coffee of breastfeeding and work.

In her remarks opening the event, the acting UNICEF Timor-Leste Representative Toshiko Takahasi raised concerns about the declining rate of exclusive breastfeeding, which needs urgent attention.

“Breastfeeding protects children from illness and acts as a vaccination,” she told the crowd. “Through breastfeeding, mothers, babies and parents develop a connection and bond. It affects a healthy community’s social and psychological development and is fundamental in the fight for survival and development of children around the globe. It is important to establish a supportive environment for breastfeeding mothers and babies through our collective action and effort.”

Working Mothers and Breastfeeding- the UNICEF Café spot lights on
the enabling environment for the working mothers.
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2018/ahelin