Proper nutrition for Mongolian babies

This year's World Breastfeeding Week theme highlights peer counseling programs. See how World Vision supports mother and infant nutrition in Mongolia!

Today through August 7 is World Breastfeeding Week! Coordinated by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and a variety of other partners, this year’s theme highlights peer counseling programs for mothers.

Through World Vision, mothers and infants in Mongolia are benefiting from such initiatives. Find out how!

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Five-month-old baby girl Gereltnaran rolls over on a mattress on the floor of a 160-square-foot ramshackle clay house. She lives there with her family of five, her grandparents, and an aunt.

She likes when her mother carries her and lets her sit on her lap. She plays by herself and smiles, looking around at every person in the house. She doesn’t cry much unless she’s hungry; then she suckles loudly at her mom’s breast.

Gereltnaran’s house is very poorly furnished. There is one old bed, one table, two chairs, a 1980s television, and a bin on one side of the furnace; on the other side, there is one table, a mechanical washing machine, and a cupboard.

Her mother Ulaanaa, 29, is a housewife. Baatarpurev, her father, has to live more than 30 miles away so he can work as a brick-layer to support his family. He visits his family once a month. They have three children. Since they got married, they have been living with Ulaanaa’s parents.

Ulaanaa used to sell scrap iron, earning about US $15 some days — but on other days, she was unable to find any scrap iron and made no income at all. She stopped working when her firstborn son arrived. Now her husband is earning US $330 monthly and provides for his family and in-laws.

Ulaanaa doesn’t have enough breast milk to nourish her baby adequately, so she had no choice but to feed her 3-month-old with baby cereal only.

Cute baby Gereltnaran was underweight.

Ulaanaa discovered the Positive Deviance Hearth project through Myagmar, a health clinic staff member who cooperates with World Vision’s Tolgoit community. The project was implemented by World Vision and local medical clinic centers to teach lactating mothers how to make more nutritious food for their babies.

Over the past three years, Tolgoit has cooperated with seven local health clinics to implement the 12-day project. Twenty mothers and 20 babies attended from May 23 to June 4. Mothers who attended were encouraged to teach what they learned to other mothers of malnourished children.

Over the 12 days of the program, Gereltnaran gained 1.45 kilograms (about 3.2 pounds). Ulaanaa plans to coach five mothers in the near future. It is now the Mongolian summer, and local residents often go to the countryside to enjoy the beautiful weather before the harsh winters arrive, which usually bring temperatures of 20 to 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. These mothers will be at the countryside through August.

“There are many malnourished babies,” says Myagmar. “We have 917 children under 5 years old. We could only choose 20 babies due to capacity limitations. Children were tested before they were able to participate because sick children wouldn’t gain weight even when fed nutritious food. The parents liked the way their babies were rehabilitated in this training.

“I am really grateful to World Vision for helping these 20 babies,” Myagmar adds. “The result of the training is that the children won’t catch cold so easily. They will be a healthy weight, won’t have a vitamin D deficiency in the winter, and the incidence of anemia will be greatly reduced. World Vision provides food and dairy products for the training at the health clinic center.

“We gather together at 10 a.m. and place the babies on the sand of the playground outside. We call the training the health strengthening camp. We apply some vegetable oil or water on the babies’ bodies, which encourages their skin to absorb the sun and produce vitamin D. We massage them under the sun and cover their legs with sand and let them sit or lay down.”

Smiling, Ulaanaa says, “I thank World Vision and sister Myagmar for helping the malnourished children.”

She lays her baby on a mattress on the floor. “I am feeding my baby well. And I will visit five mothers to help and check that they are applying what they learned after they come back from the countryside.”

Your one-time donation will provide a new mother and baby kit to a mother-to-be, providing the supplies she needs to care for her baby in those first critical weeks of life. Each kit includes items like a bassinet, cloth diapers, a blanket, soap, and a container for clean water. Your gift will also provide infant care training for new mothers.


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