World’s Breastfeeding Week: Do more to promote lactating mothers
Today marks the sixth day of the World’s Breastfeeding Week, set aside to promote breastfeeding and support lactating mothers, globally.
This year’s theme, ‘Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility’, comes at a time when there is a global call to make environments – home, work and in public spaces, breastfeeding-friendly to optimise on the benefits it offers the mother and the child.
At the moment, Kenya is among countries globally leading in breastfeeding rates at 99 per cent, with early initiation (within one hour of birth) breastfeeding at 62 per cent and exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months at 61 per cent.
This has been achieved through various measures including increased awareness on the process and benefits.
One of them is the implementation of the International Code of Marketing Breast Milk Supplements (BMS) developed in 1981 to protect and promote breast feeding and ensure proper use of BMS where necessary and through appropriate marketing.
Kenya is a signatory to the code, and has the Breast Milk Substitutes (Regulation and Control) Act, 2012, that provides guidelines on the marketing and distribution of BMS and complementary food for children under the age of six months and in guiding the proper use of BMS where necessary.
However, more can be done. The World Health Organisation and Unicef are calling on countries to ensure healthcare workers have all the information and resources they need to support mothers to breast feed.
This also extends to communities, some of which are riddled with myths and misconceptions that impede breast feeding or have traditions that compromise the practice or burden mothers to the point where they are unable to feed their infants exclusively and comfortably.
While Kenya has incorporated various laws and policies to promote breast feeding including maternity leave at full pay, paternity leave and provision of lactating stations for mothers, progress has been slow.
Information from the Health ministry indicates at least 59 organisations have put in place lactating stations and spaces at the workplace.
However, more organisations need to come on board. They would not only be observing the law, but also providing essential service to a group that makes up 62 per cent of the workforce.
With these measures in place, women will feel supported to breastfeed as needed, increasing the uptake of the practice and leading to healthier babies.