The Challenge of Breastfeeding in Cuba
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Breast milk is the best food an infant can receive. It satisfies all the vital needs of the newborn, while also benefiting mothers.
“Breastfeeding is a social process and everyone must be involved. When the father, the family and the community intervene, the results will be better and represent a guarantee of health,” said pediatrician Pablo Carlos Roque.
The Coordinator of the National Breastfeeding Commission of the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) said that “in Cuba we have the opportunity for successful breastfeeding, but many parents do not take advantage of it. The family’s own lifestyles sometimes hinder responsible breastfeeding”.
For the pediatrician who also holds a Master’s Degree in Comprehensive Child Care, old feeding patterns ingrained in Cuban society are also incorporated into the baby. “Some people think that it is correct to start feeding the newborn at 15 days of age and then give him juices and other complementary foods,” he said.
“Favorable views still continue around cow’s milk and many think that the child will be stronger if he/she drinks it. That mistake is still present today. The best milk is mother’s milk and it marks a person for life,” he added.
According to the doctor, cow’s milk can cause diseases and many imbalances in the long term. “Our country is affected by ailments such as hypertension, diabetes, myocardial cerebral infarctions and all this has to do with early feeding”.
In this context, the specialist assured that breastfeeding is related to social inclusion and to the role played by the father from the moment of birth.
As an objective, the Island seeks to promote the early initiation of breastfeeding -in the first hour of life-, achieving the accompaniment of the father and his equal participation in parenting issues.
Similarly, there are other barriers to an optimal procedure, and among them prevails the lack of support for mothers, fathers and families at work.
Maternity leave in Cuba is at the level of the most advanced countries, but on many occasions, women are unaware of their rights as workers and the laws that protect them in the important work of caring for the new member of society, the pediatrician stressed.
The protection of breastfeeding and support to promote more flexible and family-friendly workplaces is also the responsibility of the workplace as part of this joint process.
“Not only maternity leave, but also paternity or parental leave, are important tools to stimulate adequate breastfeeding in the best conditions,” added Roque Peña.
The specialist also mentioned the importance of milk banks, a new experience for Cuba. “A mother who is able to donate raises her child better, will give it more time to breastfeed, and will have more milk in her breasts”.
In this scenario, the campaign ‘Empoderémonos, ¡Hagamos posible la lactancia materna!’ [Let’s empower ourselves, let’s make breastfeeding possible!] invites to reflect and act so that families assume this healthier lifestyle in all senses.
Breastfeeding, as a challenge, requires teamwork, a collective effort, an alliance that supports the couple in the difficult and surprising journey of parenthood.
Taken from Prensa Latina