A Personal Testimony: The Brand Is Mother's Milk

Gabriela Salazar is a nutritionist who graduated from the University of San Carlos in Guatemala (USAC).  Since her field practicum and graduation, she has worked in different parts of the country (Baja Verapaz, El Progreso, Sololá, Jutiapa, and Quiché). Her passion is "everything natural," starting with breastfeeding. Gabriela is part of the Nutri-Salud local team in Quiché, providing technical assistance and modeling nutritional counseling in health services. Camila is her first baby.

I was fortunate to have a normal delivery, immediate bonding and skin-to-skin contact with my baby girl, and breastfeeding in the first half-hour after birth. I am absolutely convinced that this process reinforced my determination to breastfeed and my position on its importance. These two qualities were crucial in the days following her birth.

Even before Camila was born I received presents of different types and brands of bottles and constant messages about using substitutes for maternal breast milk. From day one, I fielded comments and questions about my being sure that breast milk was sufficient for my daughter or whether it was sufficiently nutritious. This happened because Camila breastfed very frequently, slept little, and presented neonatal jaundice.[1]

And this was only the beginning. The real test began a week later, when I suffered from cracked nipples on both breasts. It was a painful and challenging experience that I was able to overcome thanks to three factors: (1) my conviction that breast milk was best for my baby; (2) tireless support from my husband, my parents, other relatives, friends, our pediatrician, the nurse midwife, and my La Leche League adviser; and (3) my baby's well-being, feeling her warm body close to mine and seeing her smile.

Camila Salazar

In fact, observing my little girl grow and develop and thrive was an incredible incentive to continue breastfeeding. When Camila was born, she weighed seven pounds and measured 20 inches. Over the course of her first month, she gained almost four pounds and measured 21 1/4 inches; at two months, she weighed 13.2 pounds and measured nearly 23 inches. At three months, her weight was 14 pounds and her length 24 inches. At four, the chart showed 15.4 pounds and 24 1/2 inches long; at five, 16 pounds and and just over 25 inches; and at six months, 18 pounds and 26-plus inches. This was a clear demonstration to me of the value of exclusively breastfeeding. I began to give her complementary foods at six months; I have continued to breastfeed her and now, at nine months, she weighs 19 pounds and measures over 27 inches long.

When people ask me if exclusive breastfeeding has been easy, I always tell them it hasn't. This is because, even with my strong belief in breastfeeding, I have required a lot of support, constancy, patience, discipline and love–especially because I remained dedicated to breastfeeding even after I returned to work.

The first time I tried expressing my milk to learn how to do it, I extracted only 1 ml. Two weeks later I expressed around 40–60 ml, and, with time, I have been able to express up to 240 ml. At times my breast milk production has diminished, which led me to use Ixbut and Moringa, two plants reputed to be galactagogues, which have enhanced my milk production. To prepare my baby for feeding after I returned to work, from the first week after she was born, I have given her my milk from a cup, with a dropper, off a spoon, and from a bottle to get her used to different ways of feeding. Camila drinks her milk in different ways.

I like to share my experience with health workers, as well as with friends and relatives. Sometimes people look at Camila and ask me what brand of milk I am giving her. My response always is, "The brand is mother's milk."

This experience has been a life lesson for me, and it has also served as an example and inspiration to other people. And the story will continue, at least until Camila and I complete 1,000 days.


[1] Jaundice is a common and usually harmless condition in newborn babies that causes yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.

Gabriela Salazar of the Nutri-Salud project nurses her daughter, Camila
Gabriela Salazar of the Nutri-Salud project nurses her daughter, Camila
August 04, 2014
Regions/ Countries