“When I was pregnant with my first daughter,” explained Dima Zayat, Anera Medical In-Kind Program Coordinator in Lebanon, “I read a lot about the benefits of breastfeeding and decided to do it."
"But, when I gave birth, many factors made it difficult and I was very disappointed.”
Dima’s misadventure in breastfeeding her first child was not unique. Hospital regulations, lack of community and family support, and the shortage of-well trained nurses in breastfeeding are just a few of the many factors discouraging women from breastfeeding.
The World Health Organization and breastfeeding advocacy groups have long recommended breastfeeding a baby for the first six months and encouraged mothers to avoid bottles and pacifiers. Scientific studies show many short- and long-term benefits from breastfeeding for infants, children and mothers. And yet mothers often do not get the support they need to overcome the challenges of breastfeeding.
After completing her MA in public health in 2006 and graduating as a registered nurse, Dima pursued an internship with Anera where she worked on the Creative Health Campaign. During her internship she became involved in the breastfeeding and infant nutrition campaigns. The series of workshops, festive activities and women support groups helped Dima learn a lot about the benefits of breastfeeding and how to overcome the challenges that new mothers face.
“At times during the sessions, I felt people were talking about me,” says Dima. “It was amazing to have women breastfeeding their babies while taking part in the discussions. I didn’t just learn about breastfeeding, I actually lived it,” she exclaims.
Dima says the awareness sessions were far more than just presentations, charts and flyers. “It was living a reality of demonstrations and interaction with real people, real women in a creative way that makes the more scientific details easy to understand.”
Three years have passed since her first experience with breastfeeding. Now a full-time Anera staffer, Dima has successfully breastfed her two youngest children and attributes that to Anera’s public health outreach that uses an appealing interactive and community-based approach. “Changing people’s behavior takes time,” says Dima. “When someone experiences lessons that are different, creative and interactive, you do start to see changes in behavior.
Since 2006, the Creative Health Campaign has promoted simple, smart and cost-effective health practices that help families protect their health and well-being. Breastfeeding is just one of the many health issues addressed by the campaign.