By ALESHA CADET
Tribune Features Reporter
WITH numerous myths and misinformation surrounding breastfeeding, one local midwife is on a mission to educate mothers on this age-old practice.
“The baby will not take to latching on properly; your nipples will be painfully sore” – these are just some of the comments mothers-to-be often hear, said nurse and midwife Linelle Thompson.
“There are myths and negative feedback that women are taught which causes them to think that it is all bad. I always tell my mothers that it is good to get breastfeeding classes if you do not know what it is about,” she said.
Nurse Thompson, who also serves as the programme coordinator for the Lactation Management Services at the Department of Public Health and as the education chairperson for the Bahamas National Breastfeeding Association, said she is dedicated to informing the public and creating the awareness about breastfeeding health.
“We have a meeting at SuperClubs Breezes once a month and we meet from 6pm to 7pm on the first Tuesday of every month. We also make plans for different events to increase awareness and educate the public to get them to know that breastfeeding needs to become the norm in the Bahamas,” she said.
“The animals don’t need anyone to teach them, but the humans do because we have been unlearned. We have been reprogrammed and taught something that took us away from breastfeeding.”
Even after a person becomes educated about the process, Nurse Thompson said there is always more to learn.
“Just because you are in the medical field or the department of public health, it doesn’t mean you know everything; all of us need to learn. Before time, I was just a midwife delivering babies, but what I know now, I didn’t know then,” she said.
Nurse Thompson said she studied a Master’s level course at the University of London and took a breastfeeding practice and policy course. She said there is so much information that she has received over the years that she now wants to share with Bahamian families.
To make breastfeeding successful, Nurse Thompson said you first have to have the knowledge.
“In order to have successful breastfeeding done the baby needs a mother that is there to breastfeed. In order for the mother to be able to breastfeed successfully, she needs to have knowledge of everything concerning breastfeeding. In order for her to have that knowledge, she has to be educated,” she said.
Speaking about her experience at university, Nurse Thompson said: “The World Health Organisation has recommended that breastfeeding should be done exclusively from birth to six months. This means nothing but breast milk – no water, no formula, no pacifiers or anything like that. When I was at the university they showed me the stomach of two babies, one with the breast milk going in and the other with the formula going in.”
She said when the breast milk went into the baby’s stomach, it made it bacteria proof. Observing the baby that was given the formula, she said its stomach was stretched, the immune system was compromised and the formula caused gastric disturbances.
“When you have the fear of the unknown and you are given knowledge of the unknown, it helps you to understand. I find that when women are shown and taught, they find out how easy it is to breastfeed. Some times they are given misinformation from others who had it done wrong. My sister, she didn’t breastfeed her first two children and then she watched me breastfeed mine so she decided with her last child she had she was going to breastfeed him,” she said.
Nurse Thompson said it is also important for men to join the mothers and mothers-to-be in the breastfeeding classes, so that they, too, can become aware of the importance of the practice.
“One thing we found out is that when you involve the man, it changes the whole ball game. If you do not have the support from the father, the family and society, the sustainability of breastfeeding is not going to take place,” said Nurse Thompson.