, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 26 – The Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation has stressed the need for employers to provide a conducive environment for breast feeding mothers by reviewing workplace policies.
Head of the Nutrition Division Terrie Wefwafwa said on Tuesday that designated areas should also be provided for mothers to express breast milk or to breast feed their babies.
She was speaking at a forum where she emphasised the need for mothers to breast feed their children from birth.
“The first milk, known as colostrum cleanses the baby’s stomach and protects against infection. It is normally viewed as dirty and unclean and is actually expressed out and discarded,” she said.
She emphasized that breast milk has got all the contents of a balanced diet.
“That is the milk that has concentrated form of calories, protein and all the micro-nutrients,” she stated.
At the same time, Department of Family Health head Josephine Kibaru said that lack of breastfeeding by some mothers was to blame for many childhood ailments.
“Malnutrition is the underlying problem in most of these diseases. A malnourished child is more likely to die from Pneumonia, diarrhea or even any other illness as compared to one who is already starting on a healthy diet,” she explained.
The health experts further stressed the need for legislation to be put in place to govern the sale and distribution of breast feeding substitutes.
Mrs Wefwafwa said that such legislation would ensure that mothers rely less on the substitutes and breast fed their children more.
“The world over, countries have actually legislated the marketing of breast milk substitutes. For us here we have not and in our strategy we have said this is one of the areas that we are going to focus on,” she observed.
She further emphasised the need for sensitisation exercises to be carried out to make breast feeding widespread across the country.
“Whether the mother is HIV positive or not, we are going to promote breast feeding and this is supported by both the global organisations WHO and UNICEF,” she stated.
Due to the anti-infective properties of breast milk, breastfed babies tend to have less incidence or less pronounced symptoms of ear infections, respiratory illness, allergies, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Breast milk is constantly changing in its composition to meet the changing needs of the baby. It has the exact combination of protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and sugars needed for the human infant at various stages of his growth.
Children who were breastfed are less likely to need orthodontic work such as braces due to the unique sucking action required with breastfeeding.
They also seem to have better overall dental health than formula-fed children. Children who were breastfed need speech therapy less often than those who were bottle-fed.