Yesterday I wrote an introduction to the new Save the Children breastfeeding campaign, I took part in the Twitter chat hosted by Myleene Klaas and tried to explain to UK mothers that this campaign is not about guilt tripping women here who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed. It is, instead, about ensuring that women raising their children in developing countries have access to the help and information they need to give their babies the best start in life. It’s about asking large corporates to stop underhand marketing practices which can mean that women are paying more out per week for formula than they do in rent. Formula which is so expensive that they water it down to make it go further resulting in malnourished babies. Formula which is made up with dirty water leading to disease and death. It is about offering information and health workers to ensure that the first feed, full of nutrients and antibodies gets into those babies and prevents 95 deaths a day.
Today I have a guest post from Nia Umar, Mum to two children, who is fighting for women and their babies in Indonesia. Nia is one of the co-founders of AIMI the Indonesian Breastfeeding Mothers’ Association. AIMI was set up in 2007 in response to maternal and neonatal health problems caused in Indonesia by a lack of knowledge amongst mothers and a lack of support to help them breastfeed. AIMI provides peer support, a 24 hour helpline, breastfeeding counselling and training. The association has a huge internet presence, monitoring the activities of the corporates, lobbying politicians and helping Indonesian women to make an informed choice.
I always imagined I would feed my baby with formula milk. While I was at university I’d thought that life after uni would involve me getting the best job I could, earning the most money I could so that I could buy the best formula for the family that I would have. That shows how much formula milk had become accepted in Indonesia.
Just one meeting I had was to flip that stance and send me off on this journey campaigning about education and support for mothers who want to breastfeed.
Whilst I was at university I did an internship with a consumer group. One day we had a meeting about women’s empowerment which was attended by a very famous paediatrician who is a breastfeeding supporter. I was sat at the back, as the intern, taking down all the notes but I was blown away by her passion & her conviction in what was best for the children of Indonesia.
Afterwards I sat down to do some research for fliers based on the meeting and realised just how important what she’d said was – that in a country like ours breastfeeding truly can save lives.
My first daughter was born in 2005. I tried to breastfeed but broke down and cried in hospital on the second day, there was no-one there to advise me on how to go about it. In 2005 there was only one breastfeeding clinic in Jakarta. I called it 6 times in one day, desperately looking for some advice. Then, after my friends had children they began to call me too for advice.
It was my friend Nina who thought we should do something on the internet. We found that having a mailing list where mothers could ask each other questions and provide advice really took off. This in turn lead to AIMI (the Association of Indonesian Breast-feeding Mothers) being founded by 22 women who wanted to provide women in Indonesia with information and support about breast-feeding that we just couldn’t get from anywhere else. We also work to lobby the government to provide things like rooms for women to express milk at work & campaign around aggressive formula marketing.
I’m so overwhelmed by what we’ve achieved so far. We’ve now got 7 branches in 7 different provinces of Indonesia – and three more on their way soon. My hope is that as access to the internet & social media becomes more and more widespread in Indonesia (we’re already the twitter capital of the world in Jakarta!) that more women will be able to get advice from us online. And, we’re also reaching out to those who don’t have access to the internet or who aren’t able to read with free events at our branches that they can come along to.
It was beyond our expectations that the enthusiasm would be so huge. I think that one of the reasons for this is the aggressive formula marketing that we can see in this country. It makes me so angry – it is our right to breastfeed – and there are so many women who don’t have access to the information they need to be able to make that choice.
I find that being active in AIMI is one way to empower ourselves and not feel helpless. I want us to have a branch in every one of Indonesia’s 33 provinces so that every woman can have access to mother to mother support. Our government have calculated that 30,000 babies lives could be saved in Indonesia every year if they were breast-fed for the first six months of our lives – we hope that AIMI & in partnership with Save the Children can help to save some of those lives.
Nia Umar was talking to Rosie Childs from Save the Children, she is on Twitter as @housniati
Ruth at Dorky Mum, Eva at NixdMinx, Gemma at Hello It’s Gemma and Kate at Life, Love and Living with Boys also have guest posts from Indonesian women at the heart of this campaign, please go and read their stories. Read this post on Thinly Spread to see how you can help.