WOW | WOW Report

BREASTFEEDING VOLUNTEER MOTHERS

Text by: Ankita Jain

A one of a kind initiative, breastfeeding orphaned babies at Bal Mandir (Nepal’s Children Organisation) came to halt six months into being introduced. “The children were falling sick and we assumed breastfeeding to be one of the reasons. Also, the three mothers who agreed for this initiative were unavailable,” says Niraj Bhandari, Acting Director of Bal Mandir.

It all started when a 20 day old child named Promise abandoned and deserted on the streets of Lalitpur was brought to Bal Mandir. The baby with umbilical hernia was first found by a local woman who took him to Patan Hospital. When Promise drank milk, it came right out of his nose. He kept getting fever, looked malnourished and was not even three kilograms when he was two months old. “Several discussions on how his condition could be improved led to the potential solution of breastfeeding which is every child’s right and comprises of essential nutrients for newborns,” informs Niraj.

The initiative was a life-saving one for young babies and a first in Bal Mandir’s 55-year history but when the organisation began search for mothers who would breastfeed the infants, it was difficult to say the least. “Everyone raised the same question, ‘how can I send someone from my home to breastfeed someone else’s baby?’ It was a matter of privacy as well,” he explains. To make it feasible for the volunteer mothers, the organisation provided taxi fare, one full-meal, and other benefits. “Besides, a separate room has been set aside to ensure privacy. Only mother and child would be allowed in that room which was equipped with the comforts of a portable gas heater, sanitizer, diapers, and a cot. A mother could bring along her own child along if she so wished,” he says. This was enough to convince three mothers for the breastfeeding programme.

In March this year, the organisation started its breastfeeding programme under which 15 infants under two were breastfed. When the children started falling sick, the organisation stopped the initiative completely. “Meanwhile we also consulted a doctor and she suggested that breastfeeding isn’t the reason, food and other factors are,” he shares. The organisation is now rethinking about restarting the initiative with more mothers. “We will possibly kick-start the programme post-Dashain with five mothers breastfeeding 15 children,” he adds. If this programme meets with success in Kathmandu, Bal Mandir hopes to run it in all its 10 branches across Nepal.

“If I can contribute towards the betterment of a child’s physical and mental health then there’s nothing more important to me. I am glad to be a part of this,” says one of the volunteer mothers. Many senior psychologists agree that mother’s milk is important not just for physical development but also for the emotional wellbeing of a child.