Health Cabinet Secretary( CS) Ms Sicily Kariuki is calling on all employers and stakeholders countrywide to set up lactation stations for mothers in workplaces and provide break intervals for breastfeeding.
Ms Kariuki noted that every child has a right to feed and mothers must be allowed to breastfeed freely, anywhere and anytime in safe and comfortable spaces.
Speaking while launching this year’s world breastfeeding week at Pumwani Maternity Hospital, the CS further observed that mothers should not be influenced to use milk substitutes as opposed to breastfeeding.
“Parents, policy-makers and experts, agree that breastfeeding is the healthiest start to life. It is a baby’s first vaccine and the best source of nutrition. It is a universal solution that lays the foundation for good health and survival for children and women,” said the health Cabinet Secretary.
She added that breastfeeding is indeed a smart investment not only in the health of children, but also in the wealth of nations.
“ Economic gains are realised when we invest in breastfeeding,” she added.
A Lancet study published in 2016 informed that every $1 invested in breastfeeding generates $35 in economic returns.
MS Kariuki noted that in a world filled with inequality, crises and poverty, breastfeeding is the premises for lifelong well-being for babies and mothers.
Breast milk meets the child’s immunological needs, is a natural and optimal way of feeding children and it promotes social development due to bonding between the mother and the child.
These longstanding benefits of breastfeeding are backed by strong scientific evidence.
For instance, the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) 2014, reveals that exclusive Breastfeeding (EBF) rates in Kenya improved from 32% in 2008 to 61% in 2014.
These gains stem from accelerated efforts in promotion, protection and support for breastfeeding including enactment of the Breast milk substitutes (control and regulation) act in 2012.
“Consequently, a higher exclusive breastfeeding rate has significantly impacted reduction of infant ailments and child death rate from 74 per 1000 live births in 2008 to 52 per 1000 live births in 2014.
The stunting, wasting and underweight rates have also decreased at 26%, 11% and 4% respectively.
These achievements have accorded Kenya recognition as one of the Countries that is on track to achieve the World Health Organisation target in maternal and child nutrition,” said Kariuki.
However she noted more still need to be done despite these achievements, it is not acceptable that 39% of our children are not exclusively breastfed and we strive to reach the target of 80% by 2025.
In recognition of the enormous benefits of breastfeeding, Kenya has prioritised breastfeeding in the constitution, guaranteeing every child a right to basic nutrition and health of the highest attainable standard.
The Breast Milk and Substitutes (regulation and control) Act 2012, deters the promotion of other milks and foods targeting children. The Health Act 2017 requires all employers to establish lactation stations in the workplace and provide breaks intervals for nursing employees to enable them sustain breastfeeding as well as increase their productivity. Policies and guidelines have also been developed and disseminated to all counties.
Mother should therefore be supported to breast feed by family members, Social Networks and the Workplace. This includes during times of crisis or emergency and also mothers who are HIV Positive.
By Denson Mututo