Anne Curtis’ new role is her best, yet most challenging — that of a first-time mother, determined to give daughter Dahlia the best possible start in life. For her, this means breastfeeding.
Curtis is among the wide range of celebrities, influencers and other partners that United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) collaborates with in the Philippines to realize the rights of every adolescent, mother and child to survive, live a healthy life, and thrive.
According to Anne, it was her work as a Unicef Philippines national ambassador strengthened her resolve to breastfeed. “I would go on field visits with Unicef, and they would really educate me about the importance of breastmilk for newborn and child’s health. It’s a beautiful journey for you and the child, but aside from that, the benefits of breastmilk are mind-blowing!” she said.
Breastmilk can act as the baby’s “first vaccine,” protecting against many common childhood diseases, according to Unicef Philippines representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov.
“Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, followed by exclusive breastfeeding for six months, the introduction of age-appropriate complementary foods at six months, and continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond offer a powerful line of defense against all forms of child malnutrition, including wasting and obesity,” she said.
Multiple studies link breastfeeding with a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer, two leading causes of death among women.
“The more I learned about it,” Anne said, “made me decide I really want to persevere and breastfeed my first baby.”
A shared responsibility
Anne admitted there is a learning curve with breastfeeding — one made even more challenging by the pandemic and her isolation from most family and friends.
Thankfully, Anne had the support of her mother and husband Erwan Heussaff, who stayed with her during the lockdown.
“Because your hands are so full with the newborn, it’s like all your time is focused on that. The energy drained from you during breastfeeding is something else,” she related. “I’m lucky to have my husband because he knew that I was passing nutrients on to my baby. He made sure that what the mother was eating was good for the baby as well.”
Anne said the most important help was the emotional support her family gave her when she was breastfeeding. “At one point, you feel like, ‘Am I failing? Am I not doing it right?’ But I think the support and warmth of their words and their saying things like ‘you can do it’ — that really helped me.”
From pregnancy to weaning, Anne attested that the breastfeeding journey can be tough. She encourages other mothers to not be ashamed of the changes happening in their bodies.
“Feel free to speak to other mothers about it, speak to your pedia about it, read up about it but just know that it happens. Don’t feel so bad about it because it is a normal process,” she said. “Just don’t be afraid to ask for help even if it’s just for someone to listen to you.”