For many women and their families, exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months of a newborn’s life is common knowledge. It’s a practice taught in birth and parenting classes, spoken of by mothers to daughters and, for most people, easily researched and learned online. But for some women, often in impoverished and remote parts of the world, exclusive breastfeeding and its numerous benefits—which include optimal growth, health and development for newborns—are not widely understood or practiced. 

First celebrated in 1992, World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) has been held globally each year since in a campaign to “raise awareness and galvanise action on themes related to breastfeeding.” It was founded by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), and has the full support of WHO and UNICEF, taking place from August 1 to 7 annually. 

As WBW approaches, SurfAid takes a look at the story of Ina Hansel, a mother from the remote Hiliweto Village on the Indonesian island of Nias. Like WBW, SurfAid is committed to ensuring that women like Ina have access to education and support when it comes to breastfeeding. SurfAid does this by providing not only practical support, but also the education necessary to create and sustain positive health practices. This is Ina’s story:

Off the western coast of North Sumatra, on the island of Nias, Ina Hansel gave birth to her first child. It was born healthy, and for some time Ina’s newborn seemed perfectly normal. But as the months progressed, Ina’s baby began to suffer bouts of sickness that became increasingly common. In addition to illness, the child would lose its appetite too, and trips to the hospital became ever more frequent. Ina knew something was wrong and was desperate for answers, but the remoteness of her community meant that health infrastructure was minimal and access to pre and neonatal services was near non-existent.

Ina’s second child.

A year later, Ina was pregnant with her second child. She was eager to avoid the same problems her first infant had experienced, and hearing of a SurfAid class for pregnant mothers on exclusive breastfeeding, Ina made sure to attend. 

The experience was life-changing. When Ina told staff that she had delayed breastfeeding her first child, and only allowed breastfeeding for three months before turning to solid food, they quickly identified a major contributing factor to the baby’s health problems. Introducing solid foods before six months has been attributed to increased health problems and Ina’s baby likely wasn’t developed enough to absorb the solid foods, resulting in a weakened immune system. In that one session, Ina learned that breastfeeding for a minimum of six months will greatly improve a child’s chance at sustaining a long and healthy life. 

On the 29th of February, 2020, Ina gave birth at the village health clinic. She initiated breastfeeding with the child from day one, and made a commitment to exclusively breastfeed for the next six months. SurfAid will continue to monitor and support Ina through the exclusive breastfeeding period. Speaking to SurfAid, she said this:

Ina visiting the local health clinic.

“The SurfAid exclusive breastfeeding class has opened my eyes to the importance of breastfeeding infants, and it has shown me how I can practically go about it with my newborn child.”

Ina’s story is not unique. SurfAid has helped thousands of women across Indonesia to provide better care for their children—by providing practical support and basic health education. In this way, SurfAid ensures that people adopt healthy behaviours, which make positive health impacts as they are passed down from one generation to the next.

Help people like Ina and her child. Make a donation or get involved today.