I met Dao on train SE21 from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City. Dao was travelling with her six-month-old son and her five-year-old daughter to Nha Trang City to visit her parents-in-law in time for the holidays. I and the other women on the train were surprised to see her traveling on her own with two young children. Dao smiled and pointed to her luggage saying that it was easy to manage two children and one piece of baggage. She stressed that she only needed one small bag since she did not have to carry feeding bottles, formula milk, cleaning utensils, or water for the baby. Her comment that she fed her baby only breastmilk caught the attention of other women in the compartment, and a discussion on breastfeeding ensued. I was particularly interested because I had just started working for Alive & Thrive as a monitoring assistant.
Dao said that when she was 7 months pregnant, she received an invitation letter to attend a session on breastfeeding at the Mat Troi Be Tho franchise located in Nai Hien Dong Health Center in Son Tra District, Da Nang City. She recalled her visit. “Health staff from the District Hospital were there and at the end of the session checked to see if I had understood the counseling content. I was given a lot of information about the benefits of breastfeeding and the importance of feeding babies colostrum within one hour of birth.”
Immediately after giving birth at a 600 bed hospital in Da Nang City, Dao breastfed her newborn son. She shared that she had received many phone calls from formula milk companies to market their product and to advise her on feeding her baby formula milk. However, with her knowledge about breastfeeding, she was and continues to have confidence and trust in her own milk knowing that it is more valuable than any brand of infant formula. In fact, she never thought about giving formula milk to her baby.
“My son has never been sick since he was born. It is definitely thanks to exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of his life. Babies who are fed formula milk look bigger, but they get sick. I do believe that mother’s milk is superior to formula milk,” Dao said with conviction. She also mentioned another benefit of breastfeeding. “Breastfeeding saves my family money. “ Mothers who feed their babies with formula milk have to spend around 800,000-2,000,000VND (USD40-100) per month.
Dao got off the train at Nha Trang City and I continued on my journey, both of us eager to join our families for the holiday festivities. My encounter with Dao reminded me of the value of my work for Alive & Thrive. I saw up close how an informed, confident mother can nourish and nurture her child.
Read more about social franchises offering counseling on infant and young child feeding. Find out about Alive & Thrive’s efforts to ensure enforcement of restrictions on the marketing of infant formula.
By Nguyen Thi Hanh Duc