This Kenya Forum correspondent was walking hurriedly along Uhuru highway yesterday, rushing to his usual daily morning destination, work, and he happened to pass a procession wielding banners with “BREASTFEEDING SUPPORT: CLOSE TO MOTHERS“ labeled on them and despite his being late his curiosity got the better part of him.
“Excuse me!” he stopped a journalist and asked, “Hi, Huu umati ni wa nini ?”What is this procession all about? “ “Today is world breast feeding day” he retorted as he trotted towards them to get some more pictures of the lively crowd.
It saddening that many of us were oblivious of such an important day about one of the most important processes in everyone’s upbringing, so on arrival at work this correspondent opened up his web browser and got busy reading.
BREAST MILK VITAL NUTRITION
Breast milk is produced by the mammary glands of a human female for her infant offspring. Milk is the primary source of nutrition of newborns before they are able to digest other foods. The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) recommends that Colostrum, the yellowish thick, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy, is the perfect food for newborns that normally a baby should exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of their lives. WHO also encourages breast feeding for up to two years alongside other foods.
During the first few days after delivery, the mother produces colostrum which is rich in antibodies and proteins which provide passive immunity to the baby, since the baby’s immune system is not fully developed at birth. Colostrum then gradually changes to become mature milk which first appears as a watery and thin liquid and has a very sweet taste, later becoming thicker and creamier. The nutrient composition fluctuates on a day-to-day basis but nutrient supply found lacking is obtained from the mother’s body reservoirs.
NATURAL IS BEST FOR BABY
Artificial alternatives being marketed the world over are being discouraged by doctors due to studies that indicate the alternatives could result in diarrhea and pneumonia and could also affect the growth of the baby.
With westernization and modernization amalgamating as the latest heights of civilization, Kenyan women are greatly inclined to make some hard choices and things are no longer as they once were in the traditional society setting.
Women now have to choose between their careers and their position as mothers and nurturers. Some women have been misled by large corporates in the guise of educating them and have influenced them into choosing “Instead of a live, pure substance, a dead, impure substance,” says Dr. D Gunasingh, Institute of Child Health and Hospital for Children.
A few women have deliberately opted for the artificial substitutes for cosmetic reasons despite the hefty price being paid by their offspring. “A mother burns about 500 kilograms of calorie a day due to feeding her baby and it can help in getting back to shape,” Dr. Gunasingh adds.
SOUTH AFRICA’S ‘MILK BANK’
In South Africa mothers who are breast feeding are being urged by the South African Breast Milk Reserve to give their milk to premature babies that weigh less than 800g. Mothers who give birth prematurely cannot produce milk initially and donated expressed milk is the only option of feeding these infants.
South Africa has a high rate of premature babies because HIV-positive women give birth early as measure of prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Before the ‘milk reserve’ bank was introduced 46% of all babies born under 2kg in South Africa died but after the bank became involved the death rate decreased to 23 %. The government is therefore urging more HIV-negative mothers to donate.
MORE KENYAN WOMEN BREASTFEEDING
As we marked world breastfeeding day in Kenya, statistics suggest that Kenyans are faring well in matters pertaining infant nutrition and exclusive breastfeeding.
According to the Kenyan government’s World Breast Feeding initiative report of 2012, 32 % of infants are exclusively breastfed during the first six months of life which is an increase from 13% in 2003. Various measures aimed at educating the general population on the importance of breastfeeding have been put in place to ensure that the coming generation is a viable investment that will support the future of the country, it dreams and visions.