Returning work after maternity leave is not always easy for Indonesian mothers.
Especially for those who want to continue providing breast milk for their babies throughout the entire day.
Recent data shows that, for the first six months of babies’ lives, exclusive breastfeeding in Indonesia dropped by 10 percent, between 2006 and 2008. At the same time, the use of formula milk increased three-fold.
Many studies have shown enormous benefits for babies, if they get exclusive breast milk for at least the first six months of their lives.
Now an innovative delivery service is helping to ease working moms’ worries, and keep babies breastfed all day.
Muhammad Irham follows a breast-milk motor bike courier in Jakarta.
Hendri, who goes by one name, is on his motor-bike waiting for his customer.
He’s a breast milk delivery man. He shows me the cooler bag slung over his shoulder.
“This is a freezer to keep the breast milk fresh, as our clients demand. This is a customized box, so the bottles won’t fall. We put ice inside.”
It’s 1 pm now and Agatha Rizky, who works at the South Jakarta Business Park, is on her lunch break.
She meets Hendri and gives him two bottles of expressed breast milk.
Then she gives him directions to reach her home, 20 kilometers away from the office.
Hendri labels each bottle with Agatha’s name and delivery address.
The milk must arrive in less than three hours, and after that he still has three more deliveries to go today. That’s not easy, in Jakarta’s traffic.
According to the Ministry of Health, there are around 40 million female workers in Indonesia.
More than half of them are in their most fertile years – which means a lot of working mothers, and a lot of babies who need breast milk.
But for many mothers, it’s difficult to continue exclusive breastfeeding when they return to work after childbirth. Some of them simply shift to using formula milk.
This contributes to the decreasing number of breastfeeding mothers to 10 percent between 2006 and 2008.
Agatha found out about the breastmilk delivery service through social media, and three days later started using it.
She says it helps her to provide an exclusive breast-milk diet to her 5-month-old baby.
“At first I had difficulties in breastfeeding my baby boy. During the first month after I came back to work, my expressed breast milk stock at home was not sufficient. So my mother had to bring him here so that I could breastfeed him during lunch break. It broke my heart that he had to go through this, but it was for him. No matter how good milk formula is, breast milk is the best, nothing can replace it.”
The breast milk delivery service was set up by Fikri Nauval, who runs a cargo and document shipping business.
He was inspired by his own wife.
“When my third child was born, I read a lot of articles about the benefits of breast milk which opened my eyes. And I have a delivery business, so it was easy for me. When my wife went back to work after her maternity leave, I ordered my couriers to come to her office everyday and bring bottles of expressed breast milk back home. We did that for around one year. And that made me wonder, others might be facing a similar problem. I got good responses from my friends so I decided to set up a special division in my business: breast milk courier.”
He charges around 4 US dollars a trip, keeps track of the current traffic situation, and gives the best route for drivers before they head out on the road.
And he is convinced that the money spent on delivering breast milk is less than it costs to buy formula milk for babies.
“In a month, with 20 working days, they spending 60 US dollars by using my delivery service. If they buy formula milk, I’m sure that it will cost them double. A certain brand of formula milk can reach 16 US dollars per carton and in a month you have to buy up to 8 cartons. So it’s cheaper sending breast milk bottles with my couriers than buying milk formula. And the quality of breast milk is indisputable.”
This delivery company now has 200 breastfeeding working mothers as customers.
And it is is overwhelmed with new clients.
Akil Sudrajat is in charge of the couriers.
“We have to beat the clock when delivering breast milk. If we take expressed breast milk bottles from too many places, the ice will melt. And if it’s not cold enough inside the cooler bag, the breast milk might be unusable. There are times when we have to refuse delivery orders when our couriers already have too many customers.”
Hendri’s about to make his delivery.
He was lucky not to get caught up in Jakarta’s famous traffic jams, so it takes him only 40 minutes to reach Agatha’s house.
Nani Hermin opens the door. She’s the grandmother of Agatha’s baby boy.
Hendri gives her Agatha’s two bottles of expressed breast milk
Nani says her grandson can enjoy regular breastfeeding thanks to these deliveries.
And when Agatha comes back from work, she can breastfeed her son directly.
Delivery service founder Fikri Nouval believes that breastfeeding babies is needed to support the next generation.
“It’s natural for women to give birth, but how about the babies at home? How about Indonesia’s future generation if all babies at home are fed with cow milk? This is the slogan for our courier service: every drop of breast milk that we deliver is priceless for our future generation.”