NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 12 – Days after Nestlé set the record straight on erroneous social media reports that it had recalled its baby food, the Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa (NNIA) held a scientific conference on breastfeeding in Nairobi.
The conference brought together medical practitioners and nutritionists from across the continent around the theme, “Breastfeeding a key to good nutrition and wellbeing,” given the case for exclusively breastfeeding infants in their first six months of life.
Also in attendance was Seme MP Dr James Nyikal who once served in the Ministry of Health and is now a member of the National Assembly’s health committee.
He led discussion around proposed legislation aimed at enabling working mothers exclusively breastfeed.
“The National Assembly recently passed a motion that directs the Ministry of Health to enforce the establishment of adequately equipped lactation stations in all health and non-health facilities that shall promote and encourage breastfeeding. Indeed as Parliament we shall proceed to enact this motion into law very soon,” said Nyikal.
Nyikal said confining breastfeeding to toilets and restrooms was unacceptable. “Toilets and restrooms cannot be the dining areas for our babies,” he said.
Josephine Kachapin, the First Lady of West Pokot County decried poverty, livelihood and living arrangements as major obstacles to breastfeeding in the country.
“While women in rural and urban settings are faced with varied circumstances regarding breastfeeding due to the complexity of their situations, they are faced with a shared dilemma of resuming work shortly leaving them unable to breastfeed optimally.” she said.
Other challenges identified at the conference include early marriages and single motherhood, poor social and professional support, poor knowledge, myths and misconceptions, HIV and AIDS.
Baringo County was commended for championing breastfeeding in the country through its breastfeeding support group initiative that is supported by county health volunteers and nutrition officers.
County Executive Committee Member for Health Baringo County, Dr Andrew Kwonyike, said women in the county shared knowledge on nutrition, childcare and best breastfeeding practices in the support groups.
“Although the availability of food is a challenge to pregnant and lactating mothers, we have partnered with World Food Programme to supply food supplements to the women in need.” he said.
Friday’s Nestle Nutrition Institute Africa (NNIA) Conference was the second to be held in Nairobi with the first taking place last year.
“The NNIA conference is organised as part of the World Breastfeeding Week celebration. This year, the World Breastfeeding Week is aimed at charting the way towards the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number three which focuses on improving Nutrition and wellbeing through the support of breastfeeding,” said Professor Fredrick Were, Dean Faculty of Medicine at The University of Nairobi, and a member of the Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa board.
He said the conference was part of other educative workshops organised by the institute to empower health professionals and other related stakeholders on issues of health and nutrition.
During the same conference last year, delegates called on employers to establish facilities that would support breastfeeding mothers. This recommendation is now expected to take root after the Kenyan Parliament early this year, included a breastfeeding clause in the Health Bill, 2015 that requires employers to provide breastfeeding crèches at the workplace.