Face of rescue: Women’s work

Yahoo! News China has this photo of a police officer in an emergency shelter breastfeeding an orphaned baby. Heartbreaking, but somehow hopeful as well. So many babies must have no one there at all; this baby is lucky, in one tiny way, at least for this captured moment.


The Google-translated text reads:

Naima disaster areas orphans of police May 16, Sichuan Jiangyou County Public Security Bureau police Jiang Xiaojuan women in shelters for the earthquake victims in an earthquake orphans breastfeeding. Jiang Xiaojuan obligations for some much-needed nursing earthquake orphans breastfeeding, but “Henxin” themselves before 6 months, breast-feeding children also need to parental care.

If anyone can manage a better translation of the text here at Yahoo! China, I’d appreciate it.

If you’re offering donations to rescue services in China and Burma, please consider taking a moment to find out whether your money will be going toward organisations that indiscriminately provide artificial baby milk instead of facilitating lactation, relactation, milk donation, and wet-nursing.

Artificial feeding is particularly dangerous in emergency situations where clean water and washing facilities are not available, and where bottles are provided rather than clean cups (with accompanying training). The provision of infant formula in disasters as a routine, without lactation support services, undermines both maternal breastfeeding and wet-nursing, which are much safer for infants. Artificially fed babies in disaster situations are at risk of serious bacterial infections and outbreaks of dysentery; and mothers’ milk supply, unprotected, dwindles, leaving families dependent on expensive and less-safe breastmilk substitutes.

Often donations of artificial milk are in the form of expired or near-expired milk, without instructions in the local language and without training in safely mixing and administering it.

Information on the World Health Organisation guidelines, “Infant Feeding In Emergencies”, is available here at IBFAN. More information is available (in PDF form) from the WHO and from UNICEF.

Edited to add another photo from the Straits Times:

police officer feeding two babies

Edited 21 May 2008 to add a link to video footage from SBS World News. This hero is briefly interviewed from around three-quarters of the way through.

[link via Parent-L]

Categories: crisis, gender & feminism

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12 replies

  1. For some detailed information on why infant feeding in emergencies is such a big deal and what you can do to protect babies go to http://www.ennonline.net/ife/generalpublic/default.aspx and this http://www.ennonline.net/ife/view.aspx?resid=126 is a much shorter version if you have only a few mins to read (maybe read this first and then onto the longer guide)

  2. That photo is awesome. The pragmatic approach of other cultures towards infants’ need for breastmilk shows our own culture’s broad stream of neurotic queasiness, as if the biological function of breasts somehow defiles their sexual allure, as the insanity it is.

  3. Photograph of the month, if not the year.

  4. Great link – thanks Karleen.
    Here’s a translation, courtesy of youxu at my LJ:

    Police Nanny for orphans in the disaster area
    On May 16, a female police officer Jiang XiaoJuan, from JiangYou County, Sichuan Province, was nursing an orphan in a shelter set for earthquake victims. She volunteered to nurse orphans who needed urgent care, “heartlessly” leaving her own 6 month old child who also needed breast milk under the care of her parents.

    (Just going back and forth on the connotations of “heartlessly” in that context.)
    Lauredhels last blog post..Femmostroppo Awards for 2007: A Retrospective

  5. The pragmatic approach of other cultures towards infants’ need for breastmilk

    This is what strikes me about it. Photos of breastfeeding in our culture are almost always “Madonna-ish”, depicting an isolated mother and baby in a captured “intimate” moment, communing, completely focussed on each other. The viewer feels as though they’re intruding.
    Then you look at this photo, and this one – photos where breastfeeding is just something women and children do while getting on with life. It’s food.
    It’s no wonder most people wean early, if they’re led to believe that they need to go off and shut themselves away somewhere private and go into this communion for half an hour every single 2-3 hours of the day and night. That might be a luxury under some circumstances, but it’s hardly compatible with real life for any length of time.
    (I am not saying that breastfeeding _can’t_ feel like that lovely intimate private communion – just that it doesn’t literally have to be.)

  6. That is possibly the most moving picture to come out of the tragedy. Certainly it wipes the floor clean of any arguments against breast feeding in public.

  7. There are further reports that this woman is helping to feed eight babies.

  8. What a gift of love and compassion!! Kudos to her efforts to help these helpless and needy babies. Breastfeeding itself is a gift and when it can be shared, it is the most wonderful gift of all, the gift of life! God Bless her!

  9. I am moved beyond expression – in hearing about this loving and nurturing act of a “mother”. An act, which most any mother would offer as well. But to actually see this in action is beyond simple “love thy neighbor”. I am deeply inspired by this account.

  10. Apparently the police officer was promoted for her contribution to the rescue effort. This prompted some people to object that such promotions should only be for “merit” not simply for “good deeds”.
    As Ashley at Feministe says, isn’t the job of a police officer all about “good deeds”? And as some commentors said, should this officer’s meritorious contribution not count simply because it’s something only a woman can do?
    To which I add: if a 6 foot tall police officer had performed a “good deed” that only tall people can do, should he not be promoted because short police officers can’t do exactly the same?


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