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In Mozambique, infant mortality was running at 30% when we first joined forces with Nema Foundation, our house charity. Promoting the value of breastfeeding is still so very valid in a culture where anything Western has cache; milk power included.
These awareness weeks were designed to promote a positive image and in some countries this is still incredibly valid. As a child, I remember hearing that babies were dying of starvation because their parents had been persuaded by advertising to put their babies on bottles for the best start in life. As we know, bottle feeding requires sterilising, clean water and ultimately a ready supply of formula milk. It’s tragic how often these parents would fall foul of one of these impossible to maintain requirements. When you live in a mud hut and have to walk to fetch your water from a river, walk to collect wood to cook and walk several hours to a shop, breastfeeding is without a doubt the very easiest and safest way to feed your little one. In many cases little lives are lost in the developing world because of an inability to nurse and there being no alternatives. It’s just too sad and we at JoJo have been trying to save little lives, and I’m so happy to say, we have been succeeding! Infant mortality in our area of Mozambique is now much reduced, but there is still a way to go.
However, in the UK I know plenty of healthy and happy bottle fed babies. It’s pretty rare that a pregnant woman does not have access to good information and the ability to make up her own mind. No mother is to blame if breastfeeding does not work for them. In my case it was absolute agony with my first son. I had no idea that anything could hurt so much, but I persevered and after about 6 weeks it started to get easier. But six weeks of painful feeding on sore, cracked nipples is a very long time and I would not have blamed anyone else who felt they had to give up. NOBODY TELLS YOU HOW HARD IT IS! Of course once I got the hang of it, my nipples healed up and my son became more and more greedy it was like second nature. I was lucky enough to nurse him till he was about 7 months old, juggling bottles of expressed milk and later, formula too.
Whether you breastfeed or not please spare a moment to think about women in other cultures who may be going through the same stage as you but in a very different situation. Their milk is the lifeline to their little ones and getting them a decent diet and access to clean water and hospital treatment is vital. To find out how you can help us to help mums and children in one of the poorest areas of the poorest countries in the world, please take a look at our website. There you will see the JoJo funded projects which include ambulances, school building, feeding, sanitation and health education. You can help contribute just by buying our gift vouchers for your friends, since 5% goes to funding Nema.