By: Tayler Johnston, LiveBeyond's Director of Maternal Health
Education. The answer is education!
“Education is the key to unlocking the world, a passport to FREEDOM.” – Oprah Winfrey
At LiveBeyond, one of our primary missions is to relieve oppression [Isaiah 1:17; Luke 4:18]. In Haiti, education is one of the simplest and most needed tools to fight oppression.
In July, I started working on my DNP (Doctorate of Nursing Practice). Since July, I have been obtaining a lot of data on the women in our program and doing a lot of research on what we can do to help fix the problems and barriers that they’re facing.
I want to share some numbers with y’all that may blow your mind.
- The median gestational age of first prenatal visit is 16.5 weeks.
- 22.4% of women have had at least one child that has died after birth.
- 8.2% have had more than one child die after birth.
- Only 55.5% of women believe that breastmilk alone can sustain a child for the first six months of life.
- 45.5% of post-partum women have given their babies food before they were 3 months old (and I’m not talking baby food!)
- 81.1% of women believe that move san (bad blood, a psychological condition caused by stress), weakness, sickness, or not eating the right foods cause let gate (spoiled breastmilk, making the milk toxic to the baby).
- 34% of post-partum women admit to giving their newborn lok, an herbal tea laxative to “cleanse” the baby’s GI tract within the first 72 hours of life.
- 67.5% cannot read.
These are not national stats. These are the numbers on our women, on my women.
I have chosen to focus my doctorate project on increasing optimal breastfeeding practices among the women in our program. Changing their feeding practices could solve a lot of problems. Optimal breastfeeding practices (as defined by WHO and UNICEF) include:
- Exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months
- Introducing complementary foods starting at 6 months
- Continuing breastfeeding for at least 2 years
It is estimated that 19% of deaths among children less than 5 could be prevented with optimal feeding practices.
The biggest thing I have learned so far since working with these women is that some of my assumptions were wrong. They truly want to do what is best for their baby, no matter what it takes. They aren’t lazy. They don’t want to take the easy way out. They just don’t know. They don’t know the risks of giving a newborn water and juice. They don’t know that baby’s bellies aren’t developed enough to process rice and beans at 2 months old. They don’t know that their newborn doesn’t need a laxative! They stop breastfeeding if they think they have let gate to protect the baby. They wean before 18 months because they don’t want their babies to get parasites from the milk getting too sweet. It’s not their fault that they just don’t know.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
Since initiating a new education program in August, we have already seen some significant improvement in optimal feeding and we are making progress in correcting these misbeliefs, while maintaining their cultural traditions. I will Post more about our progress later.
“The Lord gives wisdom. From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” -Proverbs 2:6
If you want to get involved, please pray for us, for the program, for wisdom, for progress, and sustainability. We have hired two new nurses recently, so we now have Gertrude, Michele, Angella, and Marie Andrise. You can pray for them by name if you want. You can also donate by clicking here to keep Maternal Health running and help us grow.
Thank you for all of your support!