A LOOK AT EXCLUSIVE BREASTFEEDING
By Paul Jimbo
In 2012, the World Health Assembly endorsed a policy brief that set an ambitious global breastfeeding target.
The assembly, which is a forum of the World Health Organization (WHO) required that the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months across the world be increased to at least 50 percent.
This target was not so far-fetched. Analyses by WHO indicated that non-exclusive breastfeeding contributed to 11.6 percent of mortality in children under the age of five years.
In 2011, this figure was equivalent to about 804,000 child deaths. Exclusive breastfeeding, though, has not been a walk in the park, especially for career women in Kenya.
One of the major contributing factors has been lack of breastfeeding spaces at the workplace. Shaming of breastfeeding mothers and lack of private and decent breastfeeding areas has not made the situation any easier for many mothers to bear. This has led to many babies being sub-optimally breastfed.
Exclusive breastfeeding remains a myth to many in South Sudan, because of so many challenges that include socio, cultural and economic factors.
Until we realise the significance of exclusive breastfeeding, we might continue experiencing high mortality rates.
Some of the reasons that promote poor breastfeeding have to do with poverty and lack of knowledge and awareness amongst members of the society.
Many people do not understand the significance of breastfeeding and therefore cannot appreciate its direct linkages with child survival.
Most new mothers are not even aware that breast feeding is important to their babies’ survival.
Some out-dated traditional and cultural practices also affect efforts to promote exclusive breastfeeding.
The fact that some communities still do not pay more attention to child survival is yet another challenge.
Resources should be channelled towards advocacy efforts that seek to enhance exclusive breastfeeding.
This means that primary health care should be supported by the concerned authorities and parties to promote Maternal Child Health.
Exclusive breastfeeding is when a baby receives only breast milk, without any additional food or drinks, including water, until 6 months of age.
While breastfeeding beyond six months, a baby should receive foods with breast milk until the age of two or older.
Breast milk contains anti-bodies that help the baby fight off viruses and bacteria.
Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of having asthma or elegies. Plus, babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first six months, without any formula, have fewer infections, without illnesses and bouts of diarrhoea.
Expectant mothers should be made to understand that exclusive breastfeeding increases their children’s survival chances.
Furthermore, they should be told in no uncertain terms that breast milk is all that an infant needs to survive for six months because it is a complete meal as it contains all the necessary nutrients for a child’s survival.
Nobody should be allowed to start giving infants who have not reached six months any solid or supplements.
In a society where men dictate feeding patters in households, the same men should be targeted in a campaign aimed at reducing infant mortality rates because they are key influencers as far as family nutrition matters are concerned.
Men should be deeply involved in ensuring their lactating wives or women practice exclusive breastfeeding.
They should support their spouses by ensuring the breastfeeding mothers have relevant nutritional foods to sustain exclusive breastfeeding.
Men should understand that the survival of their children depends on how healthy they feed their families and that means, we have to be responsible.
It makes no sense for a man to boast of anything when he cannot even feed his own family, I mean wife and children.
This defines the reason I have always rejected drinks from people who display physical wealth at the expense of their own starving families.
As a man, I have always undertaken some domestic chores including cooking for my family and even washing clothes when my wife is breastfeeding and I’m so proud to say this because at the end of it, all my children were exclusively breastfed for six months.
I ended up spending very little resources on child health care save for the mandatory jabs after all most vaccinations including polio are given free in some health facilities.
It is high time we stood up with our breastfeeding sisters and wives to ensure we spare them of any workloads that hinder exclusive breastfeeding by supporting them in undertaking family chores like washing, fetching firewood and even water.