By Linda Asaba
Human milk is not just a food; it also complements the immaturity of organs in infants – Peter Hartmann”
This year, for World Breastfeeding Week 2021, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has selected the theme: Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility.
The best way to achieve this and ensure that we protect breast feeding is by having the support from the fathers and family. Fathers especially play a major role in ensuring that the mothers are in position to breastfeed the babies. This is through the provision they make and the support such as financial, moral and physical support that they offer
The theme this year is aligned with thematic area 2 of the WBW-SDG 2030 campaign which highlights the links between breastfeeding and survival, health and wellbeing of women, children and nations.
We, especially in the Africa society, usually think that breast feeding is only a role of the mother. If the mother is not supported or does not have a good support system then the mother in most cases will be stressed and this will make it hard for her to make milk. We need to ensure that in addition to pushing for breastfeeding we ensure that the mothers are; have reduced levels of stress, they are feeding well, have enough rest. Yes, in these COVID times these might be hard to realize but this is the best time for the family to create that support system that we are talking about. Like they say hard times usually bring out the best in us.
I am a breastfeeding mother and one of the things that have enabled me to breastfeed is the support from the people around me, especially my husband and family. Having someone to morally support you, someone to make sure you feed well and in time, to ensure that when you need to rest the baby is well taken care of, is one of those small things that ensure that we breastfeed the babies well.
I am a C-section mother; the healing process here is longer and much more painful. Experts tell us that the first breast milk is the most important to the baby, but my oh my… the pain that one goes through during those first days after surgery if you don’t have a good support system you might abandon breastfeeding. I remember after I gave birth, I could hardly help myself, the anesthesia medicine that I was given had affected my right side and movement. Even simple turning in bed was so painful and very hard. I could not even carry my baby. At that time as it is a norm in Uganda I had to go to my mother and wow….she really did an amazing job with support from my brothers. The support I got from my husband helped me also to take it one day at a time and because of this I was able to breastfeed my baby despite all the pain that I was going through. It is then that I realized it is indeed a shared responsibility and for a child to grow we need all the support from the people close to us.
After all that the 3 months leave days somehow have a way they end before you even know it. Work mode sets in and because you need that ka money you just have to report back to work. Experts say a baby needs to be exclusively breastfed for at least 6months but we all know we only get 3 months maternity leave. How on earth can mothers ensure that the babies are breastfed for at least 6 months? it takes us back to the shared responsibility. Our workplaces also have a major role to play in this, for example I was only able to ensure exclusive breastfeeding because my office allowed me to work with my baby and this, I will forever be thankful. Working with the baby is a whole other story.
Public institutions had agreed to have nursing areas where working mothers are able to breastfeed their babies. There is need for this to be implemented in all working spaces so that both the children and the mothers are not deprived of the benefits of breast feeding.
Pregnancy and lactation are an especially vulnerable time for working women and their families. Expectant and nursing mothers require special protection to prevent harm to their or their infants’ health, and they need adequate time to give birth, to recover, and to nurse their children. At the same time, they also require protection to ensure that their jobs are not jeopardised because of pregnancy or maternity leave.
As we commemorate this year’s breastfeeding week let us keep in mind the objectives set out by WABA which state that we have to: Inform people about the importance of protecting breastfeeding, anchor breastfeeding support as a vital public health responsibility, Engage with individuals and organizations for greater impact, Galvanize action on protecting breastfeeding to improve public health. These are indeed what we need to do to ensure that we have a population that treasures breastfeeding and a population that will have breastfed children.
Maternity protection is key to enable breastfeeding and empower parents for a successful implementation of recommended breastfeeding practices. PAHO/WHO recommends that countries must implement and re-enforce the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes at all levels. It is vital to ensure that breastfeeding mothers do not get targeted by the industry, marketing or public health professionals who want to jeopardize their breastfeeding by promoting formula-feeding.
Let us join in the effort to ensure that we promote the importance of supporting mothers to breastfeed for as long as they wish. Remember the longer the child breastfeeds the better for the child and the mother.
Let us protect, promote and support breastfeeding as we Inform, anchor, engage, galvanize.
The author Asaba Linda is a proud breastfeeding mother and Program Manager Uganda Health Communication Alliance.