As parents we can not protect our children from the whole world around us, though we often wish we could. There are some things that we can do to produce the best possible outcome for our children. The first week of August has been designated as World Breastfeeding Week, finally breasts are getting the global attention they deserve for all the right reasons. Breastfeeding is being recognized as an important building block to the global Sustainable Development Goals. Having spent nearly a decade either pregnant or breastfeeding my own four kids, I feel like an unofficial ambassador.
My personal commitment to nursing our babies all began with a trip to Turkey. Our first baby was going to be six months old when we would be traveling and with all of the accessories needed for travel with an infant I was feeling overwhelmed. I realized the easiest way to streamline feeding would be to continue to exclusively breastfeed until we returned home. In that way we were able to skip bottles that needed to be sanitized, glass jars of babyfood, and the quest for clean water on the go. The experience taught me how portable babies can be, and the ease that breastfeeding provided in being able to feed them whenever and wherever I needed. Recent research, which inspired the declaration of World Breastfeeding Week, has highlighted the benefits of breastfeeding beyond the convenience. Exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life has been shown to reduce the occurrence of ear infections, diarrhea, and respiratory problems in infants, and may even help to prevent obesity in later years. In 2011 the Surgeon General created a call to action to support breastfeeding resulting in the month of August being declared National Breastfeeding Awareness Month.
The First Thousand Days: A Crucial Time For Mothers and Children- and the World by Roger Thurow focuses on the importance of proper nutrition during the time period when a baby’s brain develops most rapidly, the 1,000 days from conception to the age of two years old. This is when the first breastmilk is so important because it contains colostrum which is rich in antibodies that boosts the newborn immune system. Breastmilk has been shown to contain all of the essential nutrients necessary to support a baby’s rapid development and in the book the American Academy of Pediatrics is quoted in 2012 as proclaiming:
“given the documented short and longterm medical and neuro-developmental advantages of breastfeeding, infant nutrition should be considered a public health issue not only a lifestyle choice.”
Breastfeeding on our travels kept our baby healthy throughout, but as we know we only have so much control. The 7.6 earthquake that hit on our second night in Turkey was a stark reminder of such. The next morning I thought of all the mothers who had crouched on their beds shielding their babies as I had while the earth shook, feeling the same fear, but who had not been as fortunate to survive. We can not always protect our children from everything, but by raising awareness with World Breastfeeding Week mothers will know that by initiating breastfeeding within the first couple of hours after birth a newborn baby is given the best possible start in life.
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Elizabeth Atalay.
Did you find that you had support to breastfeed your baby?
A new mom in Laos Photo Credit: Kristyn Zalota
It’s over 100 degrees Farenheit and I am dripping sweat as we enter the home of a mother who has recently given birth at a Lao hospital using a Clean Birth Kit, supplied by my organization CleanBirth.org. She is wearing a long skirt and hooded sweatshirt. Under the platform bed where she sleeps a clay pot is filled with glowing coals. Her newborn baby sleeps under blankets with mittens on her tiny hands and a knit cap. The mother, sweating profusely, is drinking piping hot herbal tea. She eats chicken four times a day and showers in the hottest water she can tolerate four times a day. Her four older children and husband are nearby, taking care of her and the household while she recovers.
This is a good birth story in Laos where my organization CleanBirth.org works. This mother birthed naturally with a Clean Birth Kit under the watchful eye of a trained midwife. Her traditions were respected and she and baby left the hospital healthy.
A baby needlessly dies.
However, many birth stories in Laos don’t tell the tale of mothers and babies surviving birth. A nurse at a rural clinic told of a 45-year old mother, pregnant with baby #14, who came into the clinic for help during labor. Her membranes had been ruptured for 29 hours and she arrived at the clinic exhausted. After a normal vaginal delivery, the newborn could breastfeed but was weak. He died 9 hours after birth, likely of an infection. The clinic does not have IV antibiotics, so the nurses were powerless to fight the infection.
World Moms help CleanBirth.org empower nurses.
CleanBirth.org Founder Kristyn Zalota training nurses in Laos
My visit to Laos last month was my fifth training trip with CleanBirth.org, the organization I started in 2012 to empower women in Laos to have safer births. Since 2012, we have provided 5,000 Clean Birth Kits and training for over 250 nurses.
This March, with my Lao partner organization ACD, we trained 71 nurses in the use and distribution of Clean Birth Kits and the WHO’s Essentials of Newborn Care.
Five of those nurses were fully funded by World Moms Blog donors, who gave $1,100 during our February fundraising campaign.
Our twice-annual trainings give nurses new skills and confidence. We also supply them with as many birth kits as they need throughout the year.
The trainings and subsequent improvement in care in the 31 clinics we serve, has led my Lao partner organization to ask that we fund an additional 13 clinics and a local hospital. When we visited the local hospital, midwives there told us that of the 50 births they see per month, 35-40 mothers bring with them our ayzh Clean Birth Kits — which they received at their local clinic. The midwives praised the convenience/effectiveness of the kits. They asked CleanBirth.org to provide around 10-15 kits per month directly to their hospital for mothers who don’t have a kit. This we will do.
It is a huge endorsement of our program to have our local partner and a hospital asking to expand our work to new areas. This means that they are seeing the benefits and that locals are deciding the future direction of the project. They are in charge.
My role as founder of CleanBirth.org will be to continue finding funding for kits and training. For just $5 we can prevent an infection like the one mentioned above. If you’d like you join our small but mighty effort please donate www.cleanbirth.org/donate.
Thank you World Moms for all of your support!
World Moms Blog has been supporting the mission of CleanBirth.org, founded by contributor Krysin Zalota, from the beginning. After all, we are a group of moms here, so it has made us even more compassionate to the need for safe, sterile birth for the sake of both babies and their mamas. In the villages where Cleanbirth.org operates women traditionally give birth alone in the forest. Laos has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the region.
You can follow our fundraising efforts and join in — only $5 provides a clean birth kit! — here: http://cleanbirth.causevox.com/world-moms-blog. We’ve already raised $490! Please help us break $500!
In 2015, its third full year of operation, Cleanbirth.org has provided 1,179 moms in the program in Laos with clean births, where there were zero reports of infections and where 170 nurses were trained. We continue to support the organization and maternal health worldwide, not just on the World Moms Blog site, but on many of our personal blogs, as well. Here are a few of the blog posts and campaigns that World Moms contributors have launched this year around Cleanbirth.org.
This May, Ewa Samples from Ewa Samples Photography and CleanBirth are coming together for a second edition of a Mother’s Day Campaign to raise funds to help moms in Laos together.
Last year they were able to raise almost $600 in two days! This year, they invite everyone in the Bay Area, California, to join in to support this wonderful cause.
Ewa will be offering special packages for family photography sessions, where part of the profit will be donated to CleanBirth.
Our Managing Editor, Elizabeth Atalay, in Rhode Island, USA wrote about Cleanbirth.org this month on her blog, Documama:
$5.00 Can Save 2 Lives With CleanBirth.org
Over in the United Arab Emirates, World Mom, KC of Mummy in Transit, also wrote about why helping make births safer in Laos is important to her!:
Nicole Melancon did this fantastic interview with Clean Birth Founder Kristyn Zalota in 2015:
One Mom’s Quest to Save Mother’s Lives in Laos
Sophia of ThinkSayBe shared her birth stories in support of Cleanbirth.org this year:
“Reading about what CleanBirth.org definitely made me assess my own pregnancies and the access we (my babies and I) had to clean and modern facilities in case of emergencies during the pregnancy, and for a safe delivery to my babies and myself.”
And, here is our post on World Moms Blog introducing the kick off of the Cleanbirth.org campaign!
This is an original post to World Moms Blog.
*We apologize for the choppy first version of this post that was published. Our editors were facing technical difficulties!
“When a mother receives the kit, she is happy. She feels that the kit will make her safe.” – Jun Ping, nurse, Tahoy District, Laos.
It’s true: the Clean Birth Kits my organization CleanBirth.org provides pregnant women in southern Laos do make birth safer when used correctly. Kits contain everything a mother needs to prevent infection in herself and her baby: gloves, soap, 2 clean absorbent pads, clean blade, 2 clean cord clamps, and picture instructions.
However, while the contents of this small pink bag can save lives, there is no guarantee they will.
In order to truly impact outcomes, the kits must be distributed by nurses who counsel mothers and families to use the supplies in a hygienic way, in the proper order, with a birth helper present.
The pivotal role of the local nurses is a lesson I have learned since we began supplying kits 3 years ago. Nurses speak the language, share the culture, and venture deep into jungle villages. They are the sole hope of villagers, who cannot travel to clinics due to distance, petrol expense, and washed out roads.
Well-trained nurses ensure that the promise of the small pink bags is realized in a healthy birth for baby and mother.
CleanBIrth.org works to give nurses the training they need by funding two trainings per year. This March, with our local partner and volunteer midwives from the Yale School of Nursing, we will again train nurses about Clean Birth Kits and the WHO’s Essentials of Newborn Care.
This year’s training will have a special focus on “Training the Trainer.” We want nurses to not only learn but to become teachers themselves.
To achieve our goal of training each and every one of the 62 nurses at the 31 clinics we serve, we need your help to raise $15,000 by February 13th.
You the readers and contributors of World Moms Blog have supported CleanBirth.org since it’s founding in 2012, and this year is no exception.
We are counting on you again. Please visit World Moms Blog’s fundraising page and donate what you can: $5 funds a birth kit, $120 provides Clean Birth Kits training for a nurse. http://cleanbirth.causevox.com/world-moms-blog
Thank you for your support!
Since 2012, we have trained 200+ nurses and staff and provided 3,000 Clean Birth Kits to moms and babies in Laos. We pay nurses a stipend for the work that they do for CleanBirth.org.
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Kristyn Zalota, Founder CleanBirth.org
Photo Credits: Kristyn Zalota, Cleanbirth.org
We have exciting news at World Moms Blog! Two World Moms Blog Editors, myself and Elizabeth Atalay, have been selected to travel to Ethiopia this June as New Media journalism fellows with The International Reporting Project (IRP). Last April, World Moms Blog Senior Editor Purnima Ramakrishnan of India was a fellow on the IRP’s Brazil trip where she reported on the reduction of poverty and hunger in Brazil, and how it has embraced the Millennium Development Goals to improve the lives of its citizens.
The International Reporting Project (IRP) is based at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of the John Hopkins University and the primary goal of the IRP is to provide journalists with the opportunity to report internationally on issues not traditionally covered in mainstream media.
The program was created in 1998, making it a pioneer in the “nonprofit journalism” movement that seeks to fill the gap left by much of the mainstream media’s reduction of international news. The IRP has provided opportunities to more than 400 journalists to report from more than 100 countries and produce award-winning stories.
Photo credit: IRP
Elizabeth and I will be two of nine new media journalist fellows heading for a two-week trip to Ethiopia to report on Ethiopia’s efforts to prevent newborn deaths as well as provide an overview of maternal and child health, immunizations, nutrition, communicable diseases, and health care provision, among other topics.
One of the areas that I am most excited to learn about is how Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in Africa, has stunned the world community by achieving Millennium Development Goal number #4 reducing the mortality rates of children under age 5 by two-thirds well ahead of the 2015 deadline.
In a country in which 95% of the population lives outside of an urban center in rural, remote and hard to reach areas and a shocking 90% of women birth at home without a midwife, Frontline Health Care Workers (FHCW) have been the key ingredient to Ethiopia’s success. I am really excited to meet some of these workers and mothers and share their stories. I am sure it will be a life-changing experience.
While in Ethiopia, I will examine Ethiopia’s political, historical, socio-economic and cultural dynamics to report on this misunderstood country, setting the stage to shed light on the massive effort introduced by the Ethiopian government to achieve MDG4 and what the impact has been on other critical areas such as newborn and maternal health, poverty, and other Millennium Development Goals.
Elizabeth is looking forward to seeing first hand and reporting on maternal and newborn health issues, and solutions in Ethiopia that she has previously only written about. There is great optimism coming out of Ethiopia these days and with the success of decreased maternal and child mortality, the next frontier to conquer is survival of newborns. More than half of the child deaths that do still occur take place in that first year of life, the first 24 hours being most critical. Newborn survival is closely tied to maternal health so issues around safe birth and postpartum care, and addressing uncomfortable issues such as fistula are topics she also hopes to report on.
As one of the most diverse populations in the world with over 83 distinct languages and 200 dialects, Ethiopia shares a unique history, society, culture, environment, economy and governance that is unlike her neighbors. We are honored to have been selected as new media reporting fellows for this trip to Ethiopia, and look forward to sharing our newfound knowledge with you during our upcoming trip.
We would love for you to follow along our journey at #EthiopiaNewborns !
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Nicole Melancon of Third Eye Mom.