“A fat baby isn’t always a a healthy baby.” It’s something we have to say to parents all the time here. With low education levels, and little access to information and support in the child bearing journey, migrant parents on the Thai/Myanmar border often have no idea how to give their babies proper nutrition. In the old village way of thinking about it, fat babies were healthy babies. That was true back in the villages, a generation or two ago, when all those babies were being given was breastmilk, and maybe a taste of the locally produced foods that their parents were eating.
But now parents are surrounded by choices, and they don’t have the knowledge they need to tell the difference between what is good for their child, and what will leave them starving for nutrition, even as they get fatter and have the appearance of health.
Mothers wean their babies from the breast in a matter of weeks, so they can return to work sooner. But they don’t give them a good quality formula instead. They can’t afford it, and they don’t know the difference. What these babies get is cheap palm oil filled condensed milk powder, or sweetened soy milk. By 3 months they are eating processed cake products, that are full of sugar, but soft enough for them to swallow. They are starved for the healthy fats and nutrition that comes from breastmilk. They don’t get the protective antibodies that help them to fight off diseases.
New mothers here are told that the orange milk, which their bodies produce right after giving birth, is no good. They don’t know that it’s packed full of antibodies and will give their children immunities to all sorts of sicknesses. They don’t know that it is the most important nutritional gift they can give to their new baby.
This is why we have pregnancy and newborn care classes. This is why we visit new mothers at home and help to support the breastfeeding relationship. This is why we provide nutrition that helps a mother stay strong while giving her baby food, and helps her to not worry about finding a job again right after her baby is born. For the critical first 6 months of life, we support women exclusively breastfeed their babies, and help their families to understand its importance, and to help as well.
Breastfeeding is not just important for a newborn’s physical health. The breastfeeding relationship is the foundation of an infant’s cognitive development. The experience of having their needs met over and over again, and the interaction with their mother that happens during breast feeding, is part of building the neural pathways and brain connections that will serve them the rest of their life. It builds trust. A trust bond with a primary caregiver is one of the basic needs a child has for proper development.
When we give parents this knowledge and support, their babies have a chance to grow up healthy and strong.
Thank you for partnering with us to protect children in this way, and to equip their families to care for them well.