Sometimes tete (breastfeeding) literally means the difference between life and death. That is definitely true for this little guy, who lives in one of the most remote villages of Haiti.
Steeven is 5 weeks old and weighs just 7lbs. His mother fell ill soon after he was born and as a result she has been struggling to produce even the tiniest amount of milk for baby Steeven. When I met Steeven and his mama she explained to me that she hadn't yet named him because she wasn't sure he would live, she had buried a child before and knew the pain all too well. I told her that he needed a name and for her to believe and fight for him. In that moment something sparked to life, she had hope and someone to stand with her and fight for her son. That day he was dirty and un-bathed but over the course of the next few days I watched and she began to lovingly care for her tiny little boy. She did everything she knew and her mama bear instincts were right. In less than a week Steeven started to look like a new baby, clean and clear eyed, held and loved but one thing didn't change, Steeven was still HUNGRY.
The weeks that his mama spent fighting her illness meant that her body stopped producing the precious milk that Steeven needed to thrive. When I met her she was lucky to get a few drops from each breast and had resorted to feeding Steeven porridge and crackers soaked in water. After our first meeting, where I stressed the importance of milk, she took the few gourdes she had a bought some canned milk to drip into his mouth but that lasted only a few days until once again she was left with nothing to offer but her dry breast. Steeven could have been another statistic, another "one in 5" children dead before his fifth birthday but for this one something happened...
A woman named Donna left Austin, Texas last week with a suitcase full of powdered milk and a prayer on her lips, to help someone, even just one. Along with Donna's powdered milk, her donation of bottled water and a beautiful invention called the Supplemental Nursing System I was able to spend time with Steeven’s mama, working together to figure out the best way to get Steeven’s little belly the milk he needed but also make sure that he would continue to have enough milk for months to come.
Using the donated milk (2 weeks worth + clean water for mixing) and some supplements for mama (fennel oil, funegreek capsules and lots of clean drinking water) I was able to put a plan in place for Steeven and his mama. She quickly and excitedly learned how to use the SNS. She listened, along with a half dozen other women who had gathered around to watch, she understood everything I told her right away and easily explained back to me how it would work. Through the SNS Steeven will “breastfeed” but will receive both his mama’s milk and the supplemented powdered milk at the same time. His feeding still depends on his work at the breast and his suckling sends a message for mama to produce more milk but until mama’s body catches up the SNS will help provide Steeven with enough calories to hold him over.
Working alongside Steeven and his mama has been one of the highlights of my time in Belans. I can’t wait to see how Steeven thrives in the love of his mama and how her milk nourishes his growing body.