I like to share inspirational stories, though they need to be based on practical and very ‘doable’ actions. Here are two stories that illustrate practical actions that make a positive difference to families.
The general public, as well as families, should understand that breastfeeding in times of emergencies is especially important and very possible. This was communicated well to the general population in Nepal. The government took these proactive, positive, steps after two earthquakes in April and May of 2015.
- Immediately after the first earthquake, the government issued a statement about the importance of breastfeeding. Wide-ranging distribution of artificial infant food (a.k.a breast-milk substitutes, a.k.a formula) was not allowed.
- Equally important, twenty mother-baby sites had been created in less than half a year. This provided breastfeeding counseling and support to approximately160 000 mothers with babies under two years old.
- Furthermore, Radio Nepal and several other radio stations broadcast information about the benefits of breastfeeding and other nutritional advice.
Each of these steps went a long way to keep families healthy. This is especially crucial in a time of poor sanitation, stress and danger.
Likewise, I read about a policy that positively influences the well being of a vulnerable infant… and it’s family. (I’d wager a positive influence on the staff, too.) In one hospital in Germany, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (N.I.C.U) nurses will ‘wear’ the babies during their shift, rather than have them in an isolette.
It’s well known that infants do best when held close. Heart rate, breathing and body temperature are more stable; they don’t have to expend energy to stay warm. They are safe and comforted and thus, less stressed. This is called KangarooMotherCare (KMC). The World Health Organization has a practical guide to KMC available online.
Furthermore, if a baby is less stressed, everyone else is, too. Providing care while holding the baby models a wonderful warmness, reassuring to parents worried about their newborn. And, speaking from experience, holding an infant for a prolonged period does feel good in the heart.
In both these situations, the actions were fairly simple procedures, managed without high tech equipment. An important part of the effectiveness is accurate and consistent information.
Compassionate policies, based on accurate information, encourage our capacity to care for babies, families and each other. That is what I find inspiring.