A number of months ago we were contacted by a friend in Haiti that directs a feeding program (Outside the Bowl) in Port au Prince. This feeding program operates out of a kitchen located on the property of a government run/funded maternity hospital.
We were familiar with this hospital because many women deliver there, as the options in Port au Prince are very limited for maternal health care. The options are even more limited outside of the city. It is not uncommon for women with five or six kids to tell us they had two or three kids at home and a baby or maybe two at one of the government hospitals.
The exciting development? We have been invited to come into the postpartum areas of the hospital once a week to try to connect with the women a bit and teach some basic breastfeeding and bonding principles.
We have been going for three weeks, and are starting to figure out what works and what doesn't work so well. In a relationship-based culture, it is pretty important to do what we can to make it fun and light. There isn't the time needed to really get to know one another, so we are improvising and trying to encourage the new Moms by helping them get their babies latched and by taking a few minutes to hear from them about their new babies and their lives.
Today we added a song into our weekly plan/agenda. We were excited and knew it was a good song with the message we hoped to deliver, but we didn't know how well it would be received.
When I heard the security guard outside the window with the sawed off shot gun singing "kite bebe souse'l" - I knew we had a hit!
(Thanks to April for the idea to write a song and to our funny and creative staff for writing it in a flash.)
|L to R|
April, Wini, Nirva, Mica, Andrema
Here is one of the rooms we visit each Wednesday. There are usually about 25 new moms in this room...
(Apologies for poor quality video, shaky phone video only for now. Mica, our main singer is a mom that delivered at Heartline and loves to sing, we recruit talent when we see it!)
Depi ti bebe a fèt mete l nan tete manman l
(when the baby is born, put it to the mother's breast)
(because she has yellow liquid, it is called colostrum)
(it prevents illness and develops the brain)
(don't waste it - don't throw it away)
( let the baby suck it)
(don't give water, don't give tea)
( let the baby suck it)
(after 2 to 4 days of breastfeeding often)
(you will have a lot of milk, give it to your baby every 2 hours)
(while your baby sleeps, wake him/her for the breast)
(for it to be good breastfeeding, let him/her feed for 30 minutes)
(let the baby suck)
(don't say you don't have milk)
(let the baby suck it)
(birth to six months)
(let the baby suck it)
Every culture has its beliefs and traditions. In Haiti, women will often throw away colostrum, thinking it is not good for the baby. The most common thing we hear when we enter a room full of ladies that haven't had the chance to learn otherwise is that they don't have milk and are waiting to have milk to feed their new baby. That is just one example of a handful of local beliefs that get in the way of immediate breastfeeding as well as bonding between mother and child.
It is easy to understand why pregnant women would want to get into the Heartline program. We are the only prenatal care provider in Haiti that offers all of the following: three trimesters of weekly classes, three trimesters of personalized care, six months of postpartum care and weekly classes, private labor and delivery with 3 qualified staff at births, breastfeeding support, free birth control offered after birth, transport provided should an emergency occur. The alternative in Port au Prince is typically a few prenatal appointments, a delivery in a busy room filled with others delivering as well, and one day in postpartum care.
The two experiences are totally different.
The fact is, the government hospital is doing everything it can to help reduce maternal mortality. The demand is far greater than are the resources available. Dr. Megan Coffee, a physician working in Haiti with TB patients, recently said, "In medicine, you don't want to die waiting for what's perfect. We always learn the enemy of good is perfect." I am fairly sure Dr. Coffee was referring to TB, Ebola or Cholera, but it applies to Maternal Health as well. I don't think you could find a person that would say that the situation at the government hospitals is sufficient. The fact is, while insufficient, (not perfect) it is still 100% necessary (good) and the care saves lives.
We are incredibly thankful for this opportunity to come along side the nurses and doctors and new mothers that deliver at this hospital, what a gift to us all!
Be on the look out for our forthcoming album of lactation jams.