60% of Kenyan Mothers Do Exclusive Breastfeeding
Kenya is among the 23 countries that have achieved exclusive breastfeeding rates of more than 60 per cent, the World Health Organization and Unicef have said.
In Africa, the other countries above 60 per cent are Burundi, Cape Verde, Lesotho, Malawi, Eritrea, Rwanda, Swaziland, Uganda, and Zambia.
Breastfeeding mothers at Pumwani Hospital grounds during the celebrations of World's Breastfeeding Week Aug 01 2014. photo/PATRICK VIDIJA
"Breastfeeding is one of the most effective — and cost effective — investment nations can make in the health of their youngest members and the future health of their economies and societies," Unicef executive director Anthony Lake said.
"By failing to invest in breastfeeding, we are failing mothers and their babies and paying a double price in lost lives and in lost opportunity."
The other countries that have a rate of more than 60 per cent are Bolivia, Cambodia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kiribati, Micronesia, Federated States of Nauru, Nepal, Peru, São Tome and Principe, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu.
Lactation manager at Aga Khan University Hospital Mary Mathenge said Kenya's rate is 61 per cent and would be higher, were it not for myths that are associated with breastfeeding.
“But some young women think breastfeeding causes breasts to sag. This is not true, because breasts sag naturally as women age,” she told the Star.
“It also does not cause women to lose interest in sex, if anything breastfeeding causes the release of some hormones that encourage sex.”
Mathenge said the mother's milk is the most nutritious food for babies under six months.
“It is also cheaper and available everywhere the mother is,” she said.
The WHO's new Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, which evaluated 194 nations, found that only 40 per cent of children younger than six months across the world are breastfed exclusively and only 23 countries have exclusive breastfeeding rates above 60 per cent.
Evidence shows that breastfeeding has cognitive and health benefits for both infants and their mothers. It is especially critical during the first six months of life, helping prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia, two major causes of death in infants. Mothers who breastfeed have a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer, two leading causes of death among women.
"Breastfeeding gives babies the best possible start in life," WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
"Breast milk works like a baby’s first vaccine, protecting infants from potentially deadly diseases and giving them all the nourishment they need to survive and thrive."
The scorecard was released at the start of World Breastfeeding Week alongside a new analysis demonstrating that an annual investment of only US$4.70 per newborn is required to increase the global rate of exclusive breastfeeding among children under six months to 50 per cent by 2025.
The investment case shows that in five of the world’s largest emerging economies – China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria – the lack of investment in breastfeeding results in an estimated 236,000 child deaths per year and US$119 billion in economic losses.
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