In Colombia in 1987, Diana Jurado’s sister Omaira gave birth to a baby boy, Juan Camilo.
“It was a supremely difficult delivery, and the baby was born underweight, very cold and trembling,” Jurado remembers. “My sister was [unwell] and did not have much strength to care for her baby.”
Jurado, waiting outside of the birthing room while her mother cared for her sister, was suddenly approached by a nurse.
“You are going to be the baby’s kangaroo mom,” the nurse appointed Jurado, handing her the baby to hold skin-to-skin in Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC).
Initially somewhat shocked and confused, Jurado rose to the occasion.
“I remember how emotional that moment was and it makes me cry,” Jurado begins. “I see myself in the hospital with the baby on my chest, hugging him and walking from one side to another in a corridor. The sun started coming through the window. I talked to him, calmed him and welcomed him to our family, almost trying to make him cling to this world with my words.”
She goes on: “If being a mother is a wonderful experience, being able to be your nephew’s kangaroo mother is much more significant!”
As Omaira recovered, she was able to start breastfeeding and she and her sister shared the experience of KMC. At one point, Omaira worried that Juan Camilo would love her sister more and think of her as his mother. During this time, KMC was somewhat new (Edgar Rey, a Colombian pediatrician concerned with the problems from an incubator shortage and the impact of separating women from newborns in neonatal care units, developed KMC in 1978 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC527708/) and still Omaira sensed the bond and benefits that this simple practice provides.
Even before Jurado became a “kangaroo mother”, the concept of motherhood fascinated her. The oldest of seven siblings– the first five born one to two years apart– Jurado says the “natural state” of her mother was pregnant.
“I saw my mom breastfeeding my siblings, and I grew up with the idea that this was the natural and normal way to raise children,” she recalls.
Jurado went on to to informally help mothers breastfeed from her neighborhood until she started her formal university studies in nutrition in 1976. During this time, she became acquainted with La Leche League (LLL) in its infancy in Medellin, Colombia.
Her interactions with LLL prepared her well to breastfeed her first daughter in 1982 as well as her second child several years later.
“It is indescribable the relationship that exists between my children and me,” Jurado says attributing their connection to their breastfeeding experiences. “…There is an internal connection that often seems unbelievable.”
Jurado sees this connection between her daughter and her 3-year-old grandson, Pablo, too.
“The way in which he looks at his mother, how he caresses her hands and hair, the way he talks about her is something to admire,” she says.
“It is a job that even if I did not receive any payment, I would do it with a lot of love,” Jurado expresses. “To see a new, well-nourished human being not only fed with food but with love, that already makes me feel that I am doing something for humanity, especially for future generations.”
Jurado recently completed the Lactation Counselor Training Course and says she gained a lot of knowledge.
“Having had the opportunity to update myself with…two exceptional [teachers] is something that is priceless,” she comments. “Learning about breastfeeding never ends.”
She goes on: “In Colombia we have a saying: Who educates a woman, educates a family and this is very true.”