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Friday, January 21, 2011

I almost became a ‘church rat’ in this struggle — Olubunmi Ogundimu


NAME: Olubunmi Ogundimu
AGE: 59
PROJECT: Encouragement of exclusive breast feeding as a bonding agent between family and society.
SCOPE: A national campaign on proper development of babies via breast feeding and adequate support for nursing mothers.
Dr. (Mrs) Olubunmi Ogundimu

Dr Olubunmi Ogundimu’s  philosophy of life is that every challenge is a teacher.  The medical doctor and MD of John Ken Hospital, Lagos, sees every problem as a friend.  Her passion for child development prompted her to establish Colostrums Int’l, a not for profit organisation aimed at creating awareness for exclusive breast feeding for nursing mothers with a view to using it as a bonding agent between the immediate family and society at large. This campaign according to her drained all she had, but vows that her passion for the development of Nigerian babies will never die.  She is our role model of the week.

What is Colostrums Int'l all about?

It is a breast feeding campaign project.  Breast feeding is more than food for the baby. It is a unifying force for any nation and humanity as a whole because there is no nation where breast feeding is not practised. I will also say it is a design by nature to have breast feeding in the life of everybody. It keeps people healthy and we know health is wealth.  Aside from it being food, it also acts as a bonding agent between the new born and the mother.  The act of bonding is actually learnt from the mother but is actually meant for the society. If we are all well bonded, we are less likely to want to hurt one and other. We are less likely to have vices like cultism, killings corruption, greed and anything that will hurt the other person will be reduced.  The humanness that this milk passes from the mother to the child is great.  So, Colostrums was started some years back at about the time we had so much cultism cases in the country. It was so alarming then, and we said no, this must stop and the new generation of babies that are still coming are the ones we can still mould.  That was why colostrums was founded and I'm happy a lot of mothers took to it. So, we're advocating six-month maternity leave for women so as to be able to give exclusive breast feeding to their babies. The proper development of babies should be the concern of all of us.
What other things inspired you?                   
 I observed that the infant of other animals do very well on their mothers' breast.  You will see the infant of a dog or a cow, they are very robust and all they have is their mothers' breast. They don't have the opportunity of being given any infant formula.  They thrive and they thrive very well.
When we give the correct type of food, the baby will be very intelligent.  This is because they will have what we call mechanical advantage.  In physics, it means you will have the maximum benefit from that machine.  So, if you consider the brain as a machine and with adequate breast milk, you will have mechanical advantage and that puts the child at an advantage.  The child will be logical because the brain itself is logic. Logic in the sense that I have three recording tapes, my friend journalist does not have one and I use only one at a time. Can I spare him one to use even if he is going to return it. You have helped him.  You have not amassed everything to yourself and careless whether the other person is dying or not.  I don't know how it is so easy for a man to have as many as hundred cars in his house and then you will have a rickety transport system and nobody cares. Things can be better if people care. It is not about what will satisfy only the individual, it is about caring about others.  The act of caring is not something you pluck, it is nurtured.  The breast feeding issue is a very large issue. It is more than food; it is about National health.  It also has to do with nurturing morality.  Motherhood in itself is a full time job. It should therefore be given adequate support.  A breast feeding mother should be well supported.  I am going to give Vanguard an award for also believing in it. That is what we have been preaching.  Come to think of it, a mother can only nurse a baby for some time to become of good character and thereafter he becomes a national property.  If the person is not of good character, nobody will employ him. So, during the period of breast feeding, mothers need total support.

How have you been able to sustain the campaign?

Yes, it is with great difficulties.  I still feel a lot of policy makers still don't appreciate the fact that the nursing mother is important in the life of a nation.  They always say if a woman gave birth to a baby, isn't it natural to breast feed?  Yes, what we are saying is that breast feed your baby for the first six months on demand. On demand means any time the baby needs to feed, mother must be there to give the breast for the first six months of life.  And then this woman was given only six weeks maternity leave.  If the survival of that child is of any importance to you, you have already hit yourself below the belt, because the mother that is supposed to give the breast to this baby is not available.  You see, for a lot of organisations to appreciate this, we need to make a lot of noise.  It was not just observing breast feeding week which is just one week in a year, but a whole lot of activities.  We will change the consciousness of people.  And before you do that, the campaign has to be strong and this requires a lot of money.  Initially, some organisations supported us, some gave us air time.  At a time also, I was putting in everything I had until I almost became a church rat myself.  So, I decided to slow down a bit but the fire is still burning because it is a passion and passion doesn't die.  So, this year, we are re-strategising, we will be using another method to approach people to give us support and we hope they will support us this time.

What was the level of support you got from UNICEF then?

UNICEF is also an NGO, they are also looking for funds, and when I met them, they said they cannot support because they also are doing baby friendly campaign. Even at the federal level, we approached the federal ministry of health, Lagos state ministry of health, but the best I have got so far is that they attend our baby shows.  It is now like a deep river, but the fact that it is a river means that it can be crossed.   We are not giving up on it.  On foreign donors, I really don't know their experience with NGOs from Nigeria but they will tell you they don't deal directly with individual NGOs, they deal with governments.  The government, I can approach for this programme is the Ministry of Health, I am registered with them but there is nothing, and I think in this country, there is apathy to this kind of programme.  We do not appreciate valuable things unless it brings in money and certain benefits.

How do you intend to carry on?

Yes, in my own little way and as far as my money can carry me, I will continue the campaign until some day when people will really appreciate it.  I will advise all nursing mothers to be wise.  There is wisdom in breast feeding.  When you breast feed your child, you will not only feel fulfilled that you have done your job very well on your child, you will see the result that this is a child well cared for.  That is a pride of a mother, a family, a nation and the world. If they are wise, they will look after their children, they will put time aside for child care.  They will not allow it conflict with their career.  I believe there are things a lot of women can do from home and at the same time look after their children. The development of a child does not wait for anybody, everyday that child is growing.  A lot of mothers miss out on these formative years, and once you missed out these formative years, the rest becomes a struggle. I advise that mothers should give enough time for their babies and they will not regret it. For their own sake, nature wants to preserve this woman for another baby.  Inside the woman, there is a protective chemical (hormones) that helps to prevent illness in the mother.  Today, I know one of the deadly diseases is cancer, and for every woman that breast feeds, she is assured of having less rate of having cancer of the breast, cancer of the ovary and cancer of the womb. You see, if by breast feeding I can reduce my risk to almost zero level, then it is worth doing.  The breast feeding mother conserves blood, because breast feeding starts immediately after the baby comes out at birth.  You just clean the nipple and allow the baby to suck. With that simple action alone, it helps the uterus to contract.  Breast feeding also confers beauty on the woman. The skin of a nursing mother glows. Nature does not want the husband to look outside at that time.  So, the woman becomes extremely attractive, the hair becomes longer, shining.  She is full and round at that time.  Some women erroneously feel that when they breast feed, their breasts go flat, I want to re-assure them again and again, if you want to have full breasts even long after you have finished the six-months period, breast feed your baby because you would have used the breasts for the purpose they were created.  Any part of your body that is not used for what it was created for, becomes atrophied, it becomes smaller and degenerate.  So, if there is any woman who should be afraid of flat breast it is the one that does not breast feed.  If a good number of us are cerebral, we'll be concerned about what goes on around us, because if things are well around you, things are well with you then the nation will gain a lot. I believe that these new babies are our opportunity to get things done rightly. Every day new babies are born; every year in Nigeria, we bring about four million people.  It means four million opportunities every year to get things work well.  If we treat them the way we have been doing, we keep getting the same result.

How would a woman who passed through caesarean section and a multiple birth mother (say triplets) afford the exclusive breast feeding system?

Let me start with the woman that had a ceasarean section. That woman will start breast feeding immediately she wakes up. Anaesthesia these days is easy.  As you are closing up the skin, the patient is waking up. So, by the time the woman is wheeled from the theatre to the ward, which is a matter of less than ten minutes, she's awake and ready to put her baby to the breast. Caesarean section is not contra-indication at all; it does not stop breast feeding.  Now, the issue of triplets or multiple births. The exclusive still work, but in her case, it is more laborious.  We know it is not going to be easy, but it is not impossible. The milk is produced when the child puts the mouth at the nipple.  If you are going to breast feed the three, the milk will continue to flow, but there are certain things multiple birth mothers must know.  When you start with breast A for the first child, the child spends like 10 minutes on breast A, you turn that child to breast B to spend five minutes. The feeding time for a baby is fifteen minutes.  Baby 2 will start from breast B and spend 10 minutes ending up in breast A and spend five minutes. Baby 3 will start from breast A and spend 10 minutes and end up in breast B to spend five minutes.  So, at a feeding time of 15 minutes, all the babies are well fed.  What it takes is just that the mother of triplets will spend 45 minutes where the mother of a single baby will spend 15 minutes.

Tell us more about yourself and your background
I am a person who likes to play the game by the rules, I live by principle.  I appreciate people.  I know that in every person, there is a gift.  I find it difficult to ignore people.  I relate with every individual no matter who you are. I am hard working, I started this hospital with my husband some 30 years back, and we thank God it is alive and well.  I have zero tolerance for inefficiency.  If you say you are a carpenter, I must see you as one.
I thank god that I have a good background.  My parents were hardworking and meticulous.  I got into Methodist Girls High school after my primary school from where I proceeded to have my medical education at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife. I got married and I have four children. The last one will be getting married soon.  Things have been quite good.  For me as person I thank God.  I don't start doing anything with a doubt whether it would succeed or not.

If you look back what would you like to change about yourself?
With the kind of passion that I now have for human development, I would have gone into children education, because that is when the human being is formed. As a doctor, I had to do a programme in Early Childhood Education and I have a diploma in that just because of the interest. So, if I have to come back again, I will go into that.  It is possible for one to have more than one passion. I still feel fulfilled even as a doctor, but I also know that I have other parts of me that if I were to make a choice now, with the kind of feeling that I have, I will go into education.

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