Despite the financial advantages of exclusive breastfeeding, several nursing moms in Akwa Ibom State have argued that extreme hunger and poverty have prevented them from taking advantage of these advantages.
In an interview with a few mothers in Uyo, the state capital, in observance of World Breastfeeding Week with the theme “Step up for breastfeeding: Educate and Support,” some mothers spoke about how difficult and demanding exclusive breastfeeding is, particularly given the scarcity of food for mothers.
A mother of a two-month-old baby named Nsa Effiong stated, “This is my first kid, and I am not doing exclusive nursing due to hunger. I always get very hungry when the baby suckers, thus it would be difficult for me to offer the baby breast milk all the time. Instead, I occasionally give the infant water and guinea corn together with milk.
Another mother, Edna, claimed that since she underwent a cesarean delivery and became ill as a result, she was unable to exclusively breastfeed her child.
She went on to say that although she did not exclusively nurse all of her children, they are all doing well in school and that any woman who can handle the challenges of exclusive nursing should do so.
However, in a chat with our correspondent over the weekend, senior nursing superintendent Emem Sunday of the Immunization section at the Itam Health Centre criticized the justification used by some moms to avoid exclusive breastfeeding.
She remarked that some pregnant mothers arrive with free food and water when their kids are being immunized, making a mockery of the orientation that health workers offer to expectant women about exclusive breastfeeding during prenatal clinics.
However, Sunday reemphasized the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, which she defined as giving newborns solely breast milk from 0 to 6 months. These benefits include the baby’s health and cognitive development, mother-child connection, economic benefits, and a source of family planning for the mother.
She emphasized that the advantages of exclusive breastfeeding exceed any drawbacks, if any, and urged them to adopt it.
“Exclusive breastfeeding has many benefits, it is affordable, it saves time, and it aids in family planning,” she added.
“However, despite all the benefits, some people continue to complain about time, the crying infant, and some people’s extreme poverty, which prevents them from having enough food to consume to create breast milk. These are the grievances moms voice to us that prevent them from exclusively nursing their infants.
“Some of them don’t understand the value of exclusive breastfeeding; some have retracted nipples that prevent the baby from sucking; some of them don’t even realize they have the issue, leading to poor attachment with the baby; mothers who are ill cannot feed exclusively; some women use suckers to feed their babies; this is something we always advise against.
“They should nurse their newborns from 0 to 6 months before introducing supplemental food since the breast is for the baby, not the father during breastfeeding.”
The USAID-funded social behavior change initiative Breakthrough Action-Nigeria (BA-N) in Akwa Ibom State has persisted in raising awareness among women about the value of exclusively nursing their infants.