TEHERAN, Iran, 7 September 2011 - The three-year-old girl with a pair of lace wings runs around the coffee table with her five-year-old brother, laughing out loud, as the camera crew sets up lights and equipment around the apartment. The children's mother, film actress Leila Hatami, asks them to go and play in their room while she offers pastries and tea to the crew.
This is not a usual day of filming for Ms. Hatami. Today, she is hosting another popular actress, UNICEF Iran Ambassador Mahtab Keramati, for a filmed interview on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding.
As a mother who breastfed both of her children during periods when she was also acting in several movies, Ms. Hatami shares her experience with Ms. Keramati. The hope is that their conversation will encourage more Iranian mothers to breastfeed their babies for at least the first six months of life.
The interview is part of 'Talk to Me,' a communication campaign launched on the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week in August.
Importance of family support
"I wonder how you could breastfeed two children and, at the same, shine so brilliantly in movies so much that you have even won awards?" asks Ms. Keramati.
|© UNICEF Iran/2011|
|Iranian actress Leila Hatami with her daughter Asal, 3, who she exclusively breastfed.|
"I knew I wanted to breastfeed my child even before my son was born, and I had prepared myself for it," replies Ms. Hatami. "I got part of this information from my doctor. I used the experiences of those close to me and I also searched the Internet on breastfeeding issues."
In response to a question on the importance of family support in making breastfeeding easier, Ms. Hatami says: "It is so important for a mother to get help from those around her. I was lucky enough to have the full support of my husband and my sister-in-law, but it is also important that a mother allows family and friends to help her.... You need someone closer than your doctor to help you."
Communication is essential
The point raised by the actress reinforces the theme that marked this year's World Breastfeeding Week - namely, that communication is essential to promoting the practice.
Official figures in Iran show that the rate of exclusive breastfeeding has declined in recent years. A lack of communication can contribute to such a decline.
For her part, Ms. Hatami says she has already played her role in persuading other mothers to breastfeed. Once her son and daughter were a little older, she shared breastfeeding tools, including a milk pump, with friends who had newborns. She also talked with them about her experiences.
While mothers should seek out information on the health benefits of breastfeeding, Ms. Hatami says, they shouldn't get stressed about their ability to do it. "Breastfeeding is an option, and all mothers should choose a way which puts them and their baby at peace," she notes.
Benefits of breastfeeding
Still, the benefits of breastfeeding for both the child and the mother are well known; mothers need to be aware of them in order to change their attitudes and behaviours, and choose this healthy option.
To that end, communication efforts should focus on a systematic that can counter the impact of societal and commercial pressures to stop breastfeeding.
The period from birth to two years of age is the critical window for the promotion of good growth, health, and behavioural development. Optimal infant and young child feeding is crucial during this period. Optimal feeding means that mothers are empowered to initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth, breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and continue to breastfeed for two years or more - together with nutritionally adequate, age-appropriate, complementary feeding starting at six months.
Breastfeeding is much more than food alone; breastfed infants are much less likely to die from diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and other diseases. If every lactating mother can persuade only one other mother to breastfeed her baby, the number of breastfed children will double - in Iran and around the world.
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