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Breastfeeding in Rwanda On Decline

by Daniel Sabiiti
3:17 pm

A new born child is supposed to breastfeed in the first hour of birth and at least spend the next two years on her mother’s breast milk as the main source of food.

On average breastfed babies will feed every 2 to 4 hours. Some babies may feed as often as every hour, often called cluster feeding but normally a baby will breastfeed about 8 to 12 times in 24 hours.

The Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) 2019-2020 shows that exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months without any other formula is decreasing. It went from 87.3% in 2015 to 80.9% in 2020 (a 6.3% reduction).

The survey also shows that there is a problem of delaying putting the baby to the breast for the first hour at birth. It is more common in children in urban areas compared to those in rural areas.

Randomly picked out women in Kigali (who spend at least 6-8 hours at work in the informal sector) said that they breastfeed at least four or five times or leave the lactating babies at home but breastfeed them only twice- once in the morning when leaving and in the evening when they return home.

“There is no time to breastfeed, but also the breast milk is not enough due to work stress. I leave the baby at home to be taken care of by their siblings who will attend morning or evening classes,” one Jeannette Mukansanga who was seen selling fruits in Nyabugogo trading centre.

Jackline Mushimire, a teen mother who sells onions at Nkundamahoro market says that she tries to breastfeed her 5-month baby but due to work related stress, she lacks breast milk and uses yogurt as an alternative feed.

“I sometimes don’t get breast milk and force myself to take a lot of water to get some drops in my breast. Look at how faint the breast milk is,” she says as she breastfeeds her child with milk that is visibly loose.

Women in the formal and informal sector agree on one thing- that there is a need to establish mother’s spaces and early childhood centers at work places to enable them find the best environment for resting, generating breast milk and feeding children despite their daily hustles.

The DHS recommends a need to enhance and strengthen Maternal Infant and Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN) counseling, and importance of workplace breastfeeding and appropriate maternity leave benefits.

The Minister of Gender and Family Promotion (Migeprof) said that to achieve this, and as a good example, it is recommended that, wherever possible, employers establish ways to support lactating mothers, and the establishment of designated special rooms (spaces) for breastfeeding and child care during the time of work.

The National Child Development Agency (NCDA) says that up to now, no data showing the number mother’s spaces that have been collected however some best practices have been established at the National Bank of Rwanda, Bank of Kigali (BK), the Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD), the City of Kigali and UNICEF Rwanda offices among a few.

Scientific data shows that breastfeeding is one of the best investments in children’s and women’s health. Growth and survival, saves more lives than any other preventive intervention, and would prevent more than 820,000 child deaths each year.

This is particularly those associated with diarrhea and pneumonia and optimal breastfeeding has the potential to prevent nearly 100,000 maternal deaths from cancer and type II diabetes each year.

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