Frequently Asked Questions
WHY DOES NPI SUPPORT BREASTFEEDING?
Breastfeeding is the safest way of feeding babies in emergency situations. Breastmilk is the only food a baby needs for the first six months of their life and continues to be an important source of nutrition for up to two years and beyond this in conjunction with appropriate complementary foods.
Not only does breastmilk contain the perfect balance of nutrition for each individual baby, it also contains lifesaving antibodies and other properties that protect babies from illness. This is vital when the baby is living in an emergency situation.
Breastmilk is always sterile and at the perfect temperature and does not require any preparation or cleaning equipment. And very importantly for refugees and other vulnerable families – it is free! Breastfeeding is also about much more than just breastmilk; it provides closeness between mother and baby and allows their bond to grow.
WHAT IF A REFUGEE MOTHER CAN’T BREASTFEED?
It is extremely rare that a mother cannot provide any breastmilk for her baby. Given accurate information and the right practical, skilled support, nearly all mothers can breastfeed. If a mother is formula feeding, NPI work with her to reduce her dependence on the formula and increase her breastmilk supply. We provide a safe supply of infant formula while the mother builds up her breastmilk supply.
If a mother has previously breastfed but has stopped to use infant formula, we give her support to re-establish breastfeeding again. This is called relactation.
HOW CAN A REFUGEE MOTHER HAVE ENOUGH BREASTMILK WHEN SHE HAS BEEN UNDER SO MUCH STRESS?
It is a common myth that mothers will not produce breastmilk if they are in a stressful situation, but this is not the case. Milk production is a very robust physiological process and mothers can continue to produce breastmilk, even in difficult circumstances. However, stress can inhibit the let-down, or milk ejection reflex in particular.
NPI works to provide safe, peaceful and friendly spaces for mothers to feed and bond with their babies. In particular, we set up mother and baby tents in the refugee camps we work in to provide mothers with a space they can go to be with other women and skilled NPI volunteers to receive support. A mother is able to relax and feed away from the often cramped and crowded conditions of the camp.
IS IT TRUE THAT NPI MADE SOME OF THE CAMPS YOU WORK IN FORMULA FREE?
Yes, three out of the four refugee camps we worked in during 2016 became 100% breastfeeding. Originally these camps had breastfeeding rates of 40-60%, but with accurate information and skilled support from NPI volunteers, all the mothers in these camps became able to fully breastfeed their babies.
SHOULD I DONATE INFANT FORMULA?
Donations of Infant formula are dangerous in emergency situations for a number of reasons. Mothers most likely do not have access to clean water for making up the formula or access to the proper cleaning equipment.
The labels on donated tins of infant formula are usually in a language a refugee mother cannot understand. She cannot read the instructions and make up the formula as it should be done.
It can take a long time for donated infant formula to reach mothers by the time it is transported, stored and distributed. It is common for formula to be past its ‘use by’ date by the time it reaches mothers. Infant formula does not contain the antibodies and other properties of breastmilk that protect a baby from disease, especially illnesses like diarrhoea. Babies fed infant formula get much sicker than breastfed babies, and can even die.
Often formula donations are wrongly given to mothers who are already breastfeeding. When this happens most refugee mothers will take the formula and use it because they believe they are being told to do so. Starting to use infant formula can quickly reduce a mother’s milk supply.
The donated supply of infant formula often does not last. When the formula starts to run out, a desperate mother will often use less than the recommended amount of formula to try and make it stretch further.
WHAT CAN I DONATE TO NPI?
NPI does not have the ability to store and distribute physical donations so we ask that you do not donate or send physical goods. When a new mother needs something, she generally needs it straight away, and her needs may have changed by the time your donation reaches us. We also prefer to support the local economy of the places we work, by buying items from local traders.
The best donation that you can send is funds. This allows us to purchase the things we need for the mothers we work with at the time that we need them.
You can find out more about why we ask for financial rather than physical donations by reading this blog post.
WHO CAN VOLUNTEER WITH NPI?
Please visit the FAQs in our volunteering pages for more information on this.
WHERE DOES NPI WORK?
At the moment we have projects in northern Greece around Thessaloniki, working mainly with Syrian refugees, and in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq working, with women who have fled the conflict in Mosul and the surrounding areas.
DOESN'T NPI'S PROMOTION OF BREASTFEEDING MAKE MOTHERS WHO ARE FORMULA FEEDING FEEL GUILTY?
NPI supports the rights of all mothers and does not discriminate under any circumstance. We believe that breastfeeding is a human right and as such, the moral obligation to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding comes in from a governmental and organisational level. We do not believe that the mother has a moral obligation to breastfeed. We believe that we have a moral obligation to support her and provide unbiased, evidenced based information. In doing so, there is a complete lack of judgement on what a mother decides to do with that information, whether formula feed or breastfeed. We support all mothers by providing the safest infant feeding information possible.