Avail breastfeeding counselling to every woman

By Faith Muigai
Friday, August 7th, 2020
Breastfeeding. Photo/Courtesy
In summary

At the start of this month, the world commemorated Breastfeeding Week. Over the years, this commemoration has been occasioned by awareness events which unfortunately, this year’s environment would not favour.

A majority of us may be aware that breastfeeding is an essential practice in the early stages of human development, and which ought to be a basic need to every child born.

However, data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates nearly two out of three infants are not exclusively breastfed for the recommended six months - a rate that has not improved in the last two decades.

This factor that will undoubtedly continue to have a negative impact on our children’s health as well as that of their mothers if action on advocating for breastfeeding counselling is not embraced accordingly.

In view of this looming danger, there is need to increase and improve the implementation of policies, programmes and services aligned to breastfeeding for better healthcare.

Research by WHO indicate breastfeeding counselling is the practice of giving mothers the knowledge and skills for them to breastfeed successfully.

It also shows breastfeeding reduces child mortality and has health benefits that extend into adulthood.

One benefit is the promotion of sensory and cognitive development of infants and boost of immunity against infectious diseases. 

Beyond child’s breastfeeding merits, mothers are beneficiaries too.

Research by the American Institute of Cancer Research indicates that breastfeeding reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer.

This, among other factors, gives more answers to why benefits of breastfeeding counselling are worth the effort to mothers and children. 

This year, the World Breastfeeding Week theme is “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet”, meaning, despite efforts by private and public institutions on advocating and increasing awareness on breastfeeding, there is much more to be done. 

From our healthcare centres to our homes, there is need to equip midwives, nurses and mothers with knowledge and skills in efforts to win this initiative.

As the world is commemorating the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, the WHO has called upon governments to train these experts to enable them deliver skilled breastfeeding counselling to mothers and families.

In the recent past, Kenya has noted improvement in maternal healthcare in most parts, but these efforts must be scaled-up quickly.

Among key factors to attaining this is to increase number of healthcare professionals who spend most time with mothers in healthcare centres.

The need to balance healthcare workers to client’s ratio cannot be overemphasised.

It is a vital component and as a country, statistics have shown we have the potential. 

The Economic Survey of 2020 by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicates that from 2015 to 2019, the highest increased number of registered health personnel were nurses, with registered nurses at 58,247 and enrolled nurses at 28,822. 

The survey also indicates the number of deliveries in health facilities increased by 4.1 per cent to 1.15 million in 2019.

This means mothers are embracing delivery at healthcare centres, a factor that calls for more midwives, doctor and nurses. 

During pregnancy and after birth, breastfeeding information should be a key component to all mothers.

Education on aspects such as initial breast feeding, positioning and attachment as well as nutritional support are key.

Women will undoubtedly need extra support, reassurance and encouragement while breastfeeding. 

There is need for governments and stakeholders to take action and employ more healthcare professionals to ensure services such as breastfeeding counselling and projects such as the Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC) are attained in time and with the required standards.

Health institutions and officials ought to embrace breastfeeding courses to improve their skills and knowledge  to help the mothers overcome challenges of breastfeeding— The writer is a Registered Nurse and the Regional Director SafeCare Ltd