|Ikechukwu Uzowuru cradles his son at the breastfeeding baby show in Abuja, Nigeria. The show was part of World Breastfeeding Week.|
By Geoffrey Njoku
ABUJA, Nigeria, 12 August 2008 - He stuck out like a sore thumb amidst the more than three hundred women cradling their babies at the annual baby show. The show was one of the events of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, and Ikechukwu Uzowuru, a construction worker from Abuja, was in the front row holding his two-month-old baby. His wife, the mother of the baby, sat nearby.
The example set by Mr. Uzowuru is an important one. This year, in an effort to increase the levels of support coming from the family, the community and the government, World Breastfeeding Week is promoting the global theme of ‘going for the gold by supporting mothers to breastfeed’.
Increased support is needed in Nigeria, as there is a declining trend in exclusive breastfeeding in the country.
|Ikechukwu Uzowuru receiving the prize for ‘male support in breastfeeding’ at the annual baby show.|
Many levels of support
The theme for this years’ World Breastfeeding Week emphasizes the need for emotional, psychological, financial and physical support for nursing mothers who are breastfeeding.
The husband can play a very important role in fulfilling these needs by providing the financial support to ensure that the mother is receiving good nutrition and by assisting in taking care of the newborn to allow the mother to get rest.
At the community level it is important to encourage the creation of support groups where mothers can share experiences, assist each other and receive encouragement to exclusively breastfeed. At the governmental level, there is a need to put in place policies that encourage exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of the baby’s life.
Encouraging men to participate for the sake of their children
UNICEF Nigeria’s programme on breastfeeding intervenes at all these levels, and Mr. Uzowuru is a product of the breastfeeding support groups, which encourage male involvement.
However, in the male-dominated society of Nigeria, Mr. Uzowuru is still a rarity, and he has often been called a ‘woman wrapper’ by his male colleagues at work. This term is usually reserved for men who are perceived to be weak and under the firm control of their wives.
But Mr. Uzowuru, who has been supportive of his wife’s breastfeeding, is not deterred by the name-calling. He still wakes up at night to change the baby’s diapers so that his wife can get enough sleep.
“I am an only son,” Mr. Uzowuru said. “I want my children to become something in the future. Since I have heard that breastfeeding is good for children, I want to support my wife to do it.”
His wife, the beneficiary of this support, disagrees with the sentiments of her husband’s co-workers.
“My husband is a not a woman’s wrapper. Even if he is a wrapper, he is a very good one,” she said.