Breastfeeding is the best possible way to begin life. From the first hour of a baby’s life to the second year, breastfeeding protects children from infectious diseases, malnutrition, and physical underdevelopment. The World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend that breastfeeding begins within the first hour of a baby’s life and the baby is breastfed for the first 6 months of life. The 2018 UNICEF research on infant and young child nutrition for Montenegro shows that one in five children is exclusively breastfed until six months of age. In addition to health and nutritional importance, breastfeeding builds a strong emotional bond between mother and baby. Although this is a natural process, it is often challenging, and mothers need support – both with information and during this process.
Jelena Slijepcevic from Tivat is a mother of two – twins Masa and Dusan were born in March 2020. From the very beginning, Jelena knew that she wanted the best for her babies, so she has decided to get informed about all good practices, scientifically approved. Her decision to breastfeed her twins was a result of the expert recommendations by the doctor, as well as the knowledge gained during the Breastfeeding School. The school was organized by the NGO Center for Counseling and Personal Development, in partnership with the NGO My Support to Breastfeeding from Tivat, with the support of the Municipality of Tivat and the EU through the Regional Program on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans (ReLOaD), and has included ten cycles of workshops for pregnant women and family members from July 2019 to May 2020.
Among the main challenges pregnant women face with, Jelena cites insufficient awareness of society about the beneficial and nutritious effects of breast milk and comparison with other people’s experiences, which can significantly affect pregnant women and lead them to wrong conclusions. However, Jelena has decided to put stigmas and myths aside and follow her maternal instinct. The Breastfeeding School had a significant role in making this decision. Jelena says that the school was a valuable source of information, with addition to the literature, since it provided her with all the necessary instructions and knowledge on topics that are essential for every pregnant woman and future mom who wants to breastfeed, as well as for her partner and family. Such programs provide the necessary support in building the self-confidence of future mothers, while respecting their individual opportunities and choices. In addition, these programs allow them to connect and share experiences, but also serve as an inexhaustible source of motivation and support.
At the breastfeeding school, Jelena has received answers to her questions about breastfeeding.
“Lectures by gynecologists, pediatricians, nurses and counselors in psychotherapy were part of this program. Even though this doesn’t feel as necessary at first glance, these lectures proved to be essential in the end for informing about this important topic in the most comprehensive way possible”, Jelena explained.
She believes that such programs raise awareness of the importance of breastfeeding and its benefits for both babies and mothers.
“There are so many useful tips and examples from other moms that you can relate to and be proud later, knowing that you are on the right track. Breastfeeding school should really be included as a mandatory training during pregnancy, especially for first-time mothers, when you really don’t know what to expect, because these lectures are a treasure”.
Jelena states that breastfeeding the twins, especially during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, was a good decision, because in this way she has provided the best protection for her babies, which resulted in the absence of colds, allergies or any difficulties for the twins during their first year of life. On the other hand, different social norms and roles often have an impact on both pregnant women and their partners and family.
Jelena and her husband don’t stick with the traditional division between men’s and women’s jobs, so he was a huge support in the whole process and have been actively informing himself about the breastfeeding process and the program offered by the School.
“Finally, it is important to say that breastfeeding is not an easy process, but it is unique. “My advice to all future mothers is to breastfeed their babies from the first day, if they have possibility to do so, as mother’s milk is truly a medicine and something that a child needs”, Jelena says.
The Breastfeeding School is a part of the first phase of the ReLOaD, financed by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). In Montenegro, the first phase of the ReLOaD program was implemented in partnership with the municipalities of Tivat, Kotor, Niksic, Pljevlja and Podgorica. The second phase of the project has started in January 2021.
Resource: Breastfeeding school as part of the ReLOaD | United Nations Development Programme (undp.org)