Exclusive Breast feeding Still a strange culture in Enugu rural communities

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From Maurice Okafor,Enugu.

Exclusive breast feeding for the first six months immediately after birth for every child has been proved to be the best diet to sustain good health and growth to maturity with less disease for every human being,world over. The World Health Organization with the support of international agencies like UNICEF has been unrelenting in ensuring that the message and gains of exclusive breast feeding is spread and embraced in every home, as a measure of promoting global health care,most especially in third world countries in Africa and beyond.

Therefore, the reason behind the initiative of one week ‘World Breastfeeding Week[WBW] globally to accommodate all countries is not far fetched.

The 2023 edition held from August 1 to August 7 with theme ‘Let’s make breastfeeding and work,work’ is captured to address the ugly factors that hinders nursing mothers who are engaged with one form of activity or the other either in the public or private sector from living up to expectations in their respective offices or business stations.

The advocacy for employers of labour both in the private and public sector to understand reasons why they should leverage nursing mothers with special spots designated as creche to attend to their babies often is being canvassed for.Again, the idea to extend maternity leave with pay for more than four months is also well canvassed in line with the theme of the 2023 World Breast feeding Week. Some states like Enugu state in South Eastern part of Nigeria,agreed to consider the request of extension of maternity leave with pay for nursing mothers under it’s employment from four months to six months.

It is worthy to mention that in Enugu state, the 2023 World Breast feeding Week[BWB] was elaborately celebrated with series of advocates by UNICEF zone A office in partnership with some Non Governmental Organisations[NGO’s],Media executives and concerned individuals in the state alongside the state government agencies.

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The wife of the Enugu state governor,Mrs Ngozi Mbah took time off her ever busy schedule to launch the 2023 World Breast feeding Week, at the Enugu State University Teaching Hospital[ESUT],Park lane on Tuesday,August 2,where she lectured on the benefits of exclusive breast feeding with zero water for the first six months. She stated it is very vital for healthy growth of every child,revealing it is also immunizes the child against most diseases and infections .

Mrs Mbah on passionate grounds shared her good times with patients and out patients who could not afford to off set their hospital bills, by giving them a helping hand.

Enugu state government it it’s concern to let the theme ,message and important need for exclusive breast feeding extended the exercise in Enugu state for an additional one week.

With volunteering support from UNICEF ‘Zone A area office, Enugu,some Media executives went the extra miles to sensitise and note how the 2023 World Breast feeding Week were being complied in Enugu state rural communities and the rate of assimilation of breast feeding among nursing mothers.

This Reporter who went to Oji River local government area found out that mixed feelings still trail the message and many nursing mothers are opposed to imbibing breast feeding as a culture.

At the Basic Health Center,Mile 2,Oji River, a nursing mother[name not disclosed] who came for the usual routine check on her four month child told this Reporter that exclusive breast feeding is not acceptable to her. She disclosed she never tried it on her previous two births,and is still towing the same path of supplementing the diet of her third child with water and baby foods.

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According to her, her baby often demand water while breast feeding or immediately after breast feeding her,and she will start crying at any point there was a delay in giving her drinking water.

She boasted that both all her kids are growing up fine and are in good health even without taking them on exclusive breast feeding.

Another nursing mother told the Reporter that exclusive breast feeding will tantamount to punishment on a woman with child if she is not being well fed with balanced diet and placed on good nutrition.

Another nursing mother told this Reporter that she only managed to breast feed her exclusively for only three months,stating her baby was demanding for more feeding and she was left with no other option to start giving him water and baby food.

In a chat with Oji River local government Nutrition focal person,Mrs Ndufuechi Regina,who was available when the Reporter visited Basic Health Center,Mile 2, Oji River, She said it is always part of their duty to educate and enlighten every nursing mother during their health talk series every Tuesday to imbibe the exclusive breast feeding culture for the first six months as the best form of diet that will promote healthy growth for their kids but they do not follow them to their respective homes to note those who are not complying to the instructions.

According to Mrs Ndufuechi, they are equally advising the expectant mothers to ensure that once they put to bed, their babies must suck within the first one hour the ‘Cholesterol’ from their breast which is very important and serves the role of immunization. Again, they equally advise the expectant mothers to plead with their care giver or nurse to help them ensure the cholesterol is sucked by their babies,if they are in deep sleep or unconscious after birth.

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She stressed that they often dictate babies who were not growing healthy probably due to not feeding exclusively by their mothers when such baby fails ‘Mid-Upper arm Circumference test. She disclosed that the test determines nutritional value of every baby.

She said as a measure of saving or rescuing such child from deteriorating health condition, at this point they will prescribe the use ‘RUTF[Ready to use therapeutic food] as supplement. She disclosed that RUTF is freely and donated by the state Ministry of health,WHO and UNICEF.

Her words,’ RUTF is administered when the baby is tested with Mid- Upper Circumference and it turns red,which indicates that the baby is severely malnourished. At this juncture,the Nutrition focal person will approve the use of RUTF for the baby until after six months. It is free of charge’,Mrs Ndufuechi explained.

Checks revealed that the propagation for adoption of exclusive breast feeding as a way of life among women and nursing mothers mostly in the rural communities of Enugu state is being hampered by cultural beliefs and tradition. Many still holds to the ancient tradition that a nursing mother should be drinking more of local palm wine for her breast milk to flow adequately. Many believes that a special type of soup prepared with coco yam and bitter leaves are what a nursing mother requires to produce more of breast milk to feed her child adequately. Amidst all, they see it as a taboo not to give drinking water to their baby after every breast feeding exercise.

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