Tight working plans, business schedules, dictates of current life styles and effects of Covid-19, should not be an excuse for not breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding, the natural and optimal way of feeding babies, is crucial for health and development for it provides a readily available food source that is both nutritionally superlative and fits the developmental and immunological needs of babies.
Speaking in Nairobi during the media reporters’ sensitization forum, the Head of Family Health Department in the Ministry of Health Dr. Issac Bashir said for optimal breast-feeding practices to take place, mothers require a robust support system.
“This means accelerating individual support to the community, workplaces, health systems including legislative policies that promote and protect breastfeeding,” said Bashir.
He said all countries benefit from increasing breastfeeding rates citing that, reports indicate that the total global economic losses of not breast-feeding are estimated to be US $ 341.3 billion.
“This means, for every dollar invested in enabling a mother to breastfeed a return of $ 35 is generated through economics,” added Bashir.
He said breastfeeding helps children to combat infectious diseases, decrease incidence and severity of diarrhea, lower respiratory infections and acute otitis media, prevent dental caries and malocclusions.
The Maternal Infant and Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN) Program manager who moderated the sensitization forum Rose Wambu, encouraged all the mothers to breast feed their babies for it plays a significant role in maternal health and wellbeing including the risk of maternal breast and ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
“Just imagine breastfeeding can prevent 823, 000 child deaths and 20,000 maternal deaths which occur annually,” she said.
Wambu called upon employers to support breastfeeding mothers by providing time and space for them to exclusively breastfeed their babies for six months and above until they are at least 2 years old.
She said in order to meet the World Health Assembly (WHA) targets of increasing the percentage of Children under six months of age who are exclusively breastfed to at least 50 per cent by 2025, we have to invest in the same.
Wambu warned the breast-feeding mothers to avoid misinformation and myths behind breast-feeding saying it is the best thing a mother can do to her child.
World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated annually from 1st to 7th August with this year’s theme being ‘Protect Breastfeeding: A shared responsibility’.
It is a global event jointly organized and promoted worldwide by World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) with an aim to garner support for the practice of exclusive breastfeeding for six months of life.
In Kenya employment of 2007 article 29 (2) a woman employee is entitled to 3 months’ maternity leave while a male employee is entitled to 2 weeks’ paternity leave.
The Ministry of Health together with other stakeholders have put together guidelines and implementation framework for securing workplace support for breastfeeding initiatives.
By Catherine Muindi