When a dangerously malnourished baby was brought to a Buenos Aires hospital, it wasn’t the doctors who first leaped to action. A police officer and voluntary firefighter, who was also a new mother, was on duty at the hospital and saw the thin, crying baby. Without hesitating, she asked if she could breastfeed the child herself.
According to the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses of Argentina, the poverty rate in the country is 25.7%. This is a significant improvement from previous years, but it’s still twice the rate of poverty seen in the United States. Millions of families struggle to feed their children, particularly the 4.8% who live in extreme poverty.
The mother of the malnourished baby had been struggling to take care of the infant, and ultimately she brought him into the hospital for care. Unfortunately, the overworked hospital staff couldn’t get to him right away. Officer Celeste Jaqueline Ayala decided she couldn’t just sit there and let the crying child go hungry.
“I noticed that he was hungry, as he was putting his hand into his mouth, so I asked to hug him and breastfeed him,” the officer, Celeste Jaqueline Ayala, told Yahoo.
The simple gesture worked like a charm. The baby latched, ate, and stopped crying.
To Celeste, this was something that any decent person would do, if they could.
“It was a sad moment, it broke my soul seeing him like this, society should be sensitive to the issues affecting children, it cannot keep happening.”
It would certainly be nice if everyone were sensitive to starving babies crying for food, but according to her colleague, this was not an everyday act of kindness.
“Things like that are not seen every day,” said Officer Marcos Heredia.
Touched by the selfless act, Marcos took a photo of Celeste as she nursed the infant. He posted it on Facebook along with heartfelt praise for his fellow officer.
“I want to make public this great gesture of love that you made today with that baby, who you did not know, but for who you did not hesitate to act like a mother,” wrote Marcos (originally in Spanish). “You did not care about the filth and the smell the hospital staff recorded.”
The baby was described as “dirty and smelly” by staff when he was taken in. Officer Ayala clearly didn’t care one bit.
Everybody Loves Celeste
Since the photo was posted to Facebook on August 14, it has gained 157,000 reactions and 112,000 shares. People from all over the world have offered their praise and gratitude to Officer Ayala for stepping up when a child was in need.
“Congratulations! Great values like Celeste’s are needed in society,” wrote a teacher at a local Buenos Aires school.
Celeste’s actions were also recognized by the fire department where she works as a volunteer in her spare time. Talk about a model citizen.
“We want to congratulate the voluntary firefighting cadet Celeste Ayala who yesterday in her job as police officer whilst she was on guard duty at the Hospital, breastfed a young child who arrived crying,” wrote the Bomberos Voluntarios Berisso. The fire department shared the photo of her breastfeeding the hungry baby alongside her posing with the fire chief.
“Actions like that of this cadet fill us with pride and force us to redouble our efforts, work, and solidarity with our community.”
“Maybe a promotion will be in order!” one commenter suggested. That is a fantastic idea.
And, in fact, Officer Ayala was promoted. Cristian Ritondo, vice president of the legislature of Buenos Aires, heard the story and promoted Celeste to the rank of sergeant.
The promotion was announced publicly on Vice President Ritondo’s Twitter account.
“We wanted to thank you in person for that gesture of spontaneous love that managed to calm the baby’s cry,” he wrote.
Police are in the news a lot lately, and often not for positive reasons. It’s good to see a reminder that there are police officers who are as caring and selfless as a civil servant should be. Way to go, Sgt. Ayala!