During the commemoration event, State Minister for Primary Health Care, Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu underscored Government efforts in surpassing the Global targets of at least 50% of infants exclusively breastfeeding. She, however noted that mothers need adequate support to allow them breast feed their babies up to two years.
“Men, I challenge you to support women to enable them successfully breastfeed. Provide mothers with more space and time to feed their babies, by taking up household activities during feeding time” Hon. Kaducu urged. She added that men
need to support women in attending at least four antenatal care (ANC) visits during pregnancy and provide nutrient rich foods for the breastfeeding mother.
Cecilia De Bustos, Nutrition Specialist at UNICEF noted that in order to achieve this year’s theme, workplace feeding policies should be put in place and breastfeeding facilities introduced at workplaces.
A senior pediatrician at Mulago Hospital, Dr. Jolly Nankunda advised mothers against initiating babies on infant formula. “Infant formula unlike breast milk does not have protective factors that help the child’s body to fight the diseases” she said.
“The only situation where a mother can avoid breastfeeding is when she is suffering from a disease such as cancer and is on chemotherapy” Dr. Nankunda stated. She said that HIV-positive mothers are advised to exclusively breastfeed their babies as both mother and baby are on treatment, hence reducing the risk of infection.
As part of the week-long activities to commemorate World Breastfeeding Week, over fifty cultural leaders from 17 cultural institutions in Uganda pledged their commitment and support to encourage mothers to breastfeed their children.
According to the Uganda Demographic Health Survey 2016, 98% of infants are initiated to breastfeeding within the first one hour of life. However, only 66% of infants are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life and 32% are mixed fed while 2% are not breastfed at all.
Currently, there are numerous myths surrounding breastfeeding among several cultures. This prompted cultural leaders to join in the campaign to sensitize their subjects on the importance of breastfeeding.
This meeting provided a platform for the leaders to present myths from their respective traditions and regions on breastfeeding. Clarence Bwambale, spokesperson for the Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu said that women going through their monthly menstruation period are considered unhealthy and therefore not supposed to breastfeed their babies as the milk is considered to be bad.
Godfrey Tibenkana, who represented Busoga Kingdom noted that whereas breastfeeding is a natural family planning method, people from the kingdom believed that breastfeeding a baby for long reduces his/her intelligence. “In my culture, it is believed that when a mother is breastfeeding, she needs to be careful not to allow any milk to drop on the baby’s private parts as this causes a bad odor among girls for the rest of their lives and makes boys impotent” said Shaban Alunga, Minister for Planning in the Lango Cultural Foundation.
Samalie Namukose, Principal Nutritionist at Ministry of Health expressed shock upon learning some of the myths. She also took the opportunity to caution mothers against initiating their babies on formula earlier than recommended. “Manufacturers of baby foods are taking advantage of mothers by claiming that formula foods are better than breastmilk and this is highly misleading” she said. “I urge all cultural leaders to sensitize and encourage your subjects to breastfeed their babies exclusively for six months” Namukose said.
Breastfeeding contributes to healthy growth and development, protecting children during their critical first two years and later in life. It benefits the economies, lowers health care costs and ultimately boosts productivity for the nation