All Jamaican mothers deserve baby-friendly hospitals

Not many people know this, but my degree from UTech was in Child and Adolescent Development. So I know about the benefits of breastfeeding and it’s always been something I wanted to do when I was ready to be a mother.

So it’s doubly important for me as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador that more mothers are able to breastfeed. We’re recommended as mothers to breastfeed for six months, but in Jamaica right now the average is just three weeks.

This is so sad, because so many children won’t get the health and development benefits my son Zyon is getting. He’s now nine months old, I competed for the first time as a mother last Saturday, and while I’ve introduced fruit and vegetables, I am still happily supplementing with breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding at nine months

My experience makes it all the more important for me to support the UNICEF Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. BFHI is about certifying hospitals who have the necessary practices and standard to support mothers to breastfeed.

Currently we have just two baby-friendly hospitals in Jamaica: Alexandria Community Hospital in St Ann and Princess Margaret Hospital in St Thomas. The Ministry of Health is trying to get another seven certified by UNICEF by April 2019. 

We really have to get there. And when I think back to the support I got in hospital, I want all other mothers in Jamaica to have that experience too. It can be challenging. It was for me, but that support, that really helped me.

Supportive hospital staff

When I got Zyon I instantly fell in love when from I put him on my breast. I was looking straight into his eyes and he was just looking at me and looking for the breast.

My son had no problems latching. I’ve always heard stories ‘Oh my baby didn’t latch and my nipples were hurting me.’ But for me it wasn’t like that. 

But what happened was when I was breastfeeding him my breasts were hurting me – and there was nothing coming.

Need more trained nurses

And I said ‘Nurse there’s nothing coming!’ But she said ‘It will come, just keep doing it’ and she was really encouraging me to continue, and I remember turning to her. I said to her: ‘Do not under any circumstances give my child any formula! I do not want my child to have any formula because I want to breastfeed my baby.’

We need more nurses who are BHFI-trained so that they can give the right information to the mothers and not force them. When moms say ‘Oh I’m not able to breastfeed’ … they shouldn’t just say ‘Oh, OK, here’s some formula’. No. 

We need to encourage mothers and try to give them information about breastfeeding and the benefits of breastfeeding and take the time. Because what I found is that for a lot of persons, because we have an alternative we’re forcing the alternative. We’re not maximizing what we have and what is best – breastfeeding!

Making the right decisions

When I had my child I was fortunate. There was a lactation specialist who came immediately to my room to talk to me about breastfeeding, about the advantages of the breast, engorged breasts, mastitis, latching and stuff like that..

That’s what we need with baby-friendly hospitals – having all that information in front of us, so that we can make the right decisions.

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  1. I must share my experience as a healthcare worker. I had a c-section with both children. With my daughter shortly after delivery upon return to the ward I received a crying baby. I couldn’t sit so I told them to place the baby on chest and that baby rooted and found the breast. Many mother’s especially those with a c-section are given this opportunity to breastfeed , they are offered formula. Sometimes we blame the nurse but we should blame all healthcare workers including the doctors for not practicing exclusive breastfeeding. Many of them are the ones who are pushing formula feeding and prescribing brands.
    But I have faith that one day this will change because of the new initiative with BFHI. I will be working closely with the two hospitals in my Parish so that this can be a reality.
    Mother’s breastfeeding is still the best for you and your baby and your family too.

    1. Thanks for your comment and support for the BFHI initiative Lilieth. Really encouraging to read your enthusiasm: we look forward to seeing the two hospitals in your parish being certified!

  2. We have just started the process to make our hospital become baby friendly.

  3. University Hospital of the West Indies was Baby Friendly Hospital not sure if they lose the status

    1. Joffa, unfortunately some hospitals did lose their baby-friendly status. Currently the certified hospitals are Alexandria Community Hospital in St Ann and Princess Margaret Hospital in St Thomas.

  4. I’ve recently gave birth to my son and the nurse encouraged me to breast feed him even though the nipples were tender. I enjoy breast feeding. Big up the May Pen Hospital nurses.

  5. My son is 7 months and I enjoy brestfeeding him. I think brestfeeding is the best, I don’t have a problem with doing so. Even thou my family won’t me to stop brestfeeding him but I told them all as long as milk is there I won’t stop

  6. Am pregnant with my first child and thats the way i plan on going breast is best

  7. I’ve been trying to find a lactation specialist since I’m having loads of breastfeeding issues since I had my son… I came to th conclusion we don’t have them here. Where can I find one?

    1. Hi Shan, sorry to hear your trouble but help is available. Please look out for an email introducing you to lactation specialist Violet Griffith.

    2. Hi Shan, please check your inbox. We just emailed you an introduction to a lactation specialist.

  8. I have a 3 weeks baby girl, wanted to breastfeed only but just not producing enough milk so i have to introduce formula, what can i do to produce more milk need help

    1. Hi Terry, please check your inbox. We just emailed you an introduction to a lactation specialist.

  9. It’s such a pleasure to see mothers going back to breast feeding. Thanks Shelly for been an ambassador. We went through a period when formulas was to show status, however we as a people suffered as a result because the formula would be “stretch” to make it last. Education is the key. Mothers need to know the benefits of breast feeding not only for the baby but also for themselves. We tend to follow trends set by North America where breast feeding is sexualized. What rubbish!!. Having gone through the process 40 years ago I’m so glad that we’re heading in the right direction. Thank God