Mama Aroha means ‘mother love’ in Maori. ‘Aroha’ can be interpreted as love, compassion, sympathise, and pity. It is this ‘aroha’ that drives most of us to do what we do. For the beautiful breastfeeding wahine (women) that we all work with, her ‘mother love’ that flows through her breastmilk not only provides nourishment, but also ‘aroha’ (love) for her baby
Imagine if every health worker provided every mother with consistent and accurate breastfeeding information. Imagine then if that same mother received the same messages each time she came in contact with a different health worker. Imagine if we provided this mother with all the necessary skills and knowledge she would need to continue to breastfeed her baby. Imagine if she could then pass this knowledge and skills onto her friends and family.
It has been this vision that has inspired me, and given me the drive, to develop a new resource that makes breastfeeding simple, interesting and accurate for our 21st century mothers. These ‘talk cards’ were launched in August 2011 at the New Zealand Lactation Consultant Association Conference.
Almost two years ago while I was running a breastfeeding drop-in centre in the community, I would often find myself scribbling diagrams on bits of paper while I was talking my way through the mother’s issues as this was the most effective way to get information across. Traditionally for Maori, we are an oracle culture who can often catch on quickly and easily when the information is explained verbally. In fact studies have shown that only 10% of all adults retain information by reading it, while 70% learn through participation in a discussion. Yet, while I was working in the Maternity Unit as a midwife I found there was a lack of resources that suited this type of learning. We needed something that could be used while sitting with the mother ‘talking’ about breastfeeding.
Over the past two years I have continued to help breastfeeding mothers in the community, worked as a BFHI coordinator, set up a peer counselling programme, and became a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). But my biggest qualification in life is being a mother of four young children. I am still breastfeeding my nine month old baby and find most of my inspiration while I am up feeding him in the early hours of the night.
What makes these ‘talk cards’ unique is that they have been developed at a grassroots level, they are New Zealand-owned and have been made with no other intention other than to help breastfeeding mothers of all cultures reclaim ownership of the knowledge and skills that are necessary to breastfeed a baby. The beautiful mothers and babies that are featured in the cards have been very much a part of the process. These cards have come from the women, this is what they want, and this is what works for them. I have seen with my own eyes how much impact they can have on a mother and her family.
It has been a long process with no sponsorship or funding and there have been many times that I have wanted to give up. There has never been any project planning, just inspiration! So I had to finish what I had started. However, it is the vision to help mothers understand breastfeeding that has kept me going, kept me motived. I often ask myself, “Has this been worth it?” When a mother looks at the cards and has a ‘light bulb’ moment, when I hear her passing on what she has learned to her family, when I see her feel empowered by this knowledge…I can say, “Yes, it has all been worth it.”
Lactation Matters co-editor, Decalie Brown, adds …..This was Amy’s very first conference she had presented at, as her family championed her in the background. A loud call to her from the back stalls of the room was her baby being minded by her sister. Amy responded with a nod as she calmly picked her baby. There was a scurry towards the stage to produce a chair, where she sat and calmly breastfed her baby , completing her presentation to the ‘oh’ of the audience. It was a truly magical moment, Amy!