Supporting a Breastfeeding Mother

Adequate breastfeeding support for mothers could save many young lives

By Samuel Kaalu
A mother carries her baby on her laps
UNICEF/2018/Kaalu

21 January 2019

BAUCHI, Nigeria - Lawal Umar, 45, is not just a UNICEF-trained volunteer community mobilizer who goes house to house talking to women on the benefits of breastfeeding and teaching them how to breastfeed properly. He also supports his breastfeeding wife, Aisha, by sharing information on breastfeeding with her and doing household chores, such as sweeping and washing, so that Aisha has time to breastfeed their baby, two-month-old Fatima, adequately. 

Only the last two of the couple’s eight children have been exclusively breastfed – given only breast milk from birth for the first six months of life - because the family didn’t have information on the huge benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. Their older children were given water and other drinks from birth putting them at risk of illness, malnutrition and diarrhea. The new knowledge and skills Aisha received helped her to exclusively breastfeed her last two children, aged three years and two months, respectively. 

A father shows his wife a chart
UNICEF/2018/Kaalu
Lawan Umar, 45, supports his breastfeeding wife, Aisha, by sharing information on breastfeeding with her; and performs household chores so that Aisha can have the time to breastfeed their baby adequately.

“We did not exclusively breastfeed our older children because we didn’t have information on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding,” said Umar. “Although we regret having missed that opportunity of exclusively breastfeeding our older children, I am happy we’re now doing it for the rest of our children. It is hard to quantify the benefits. Our breastfed children are healthier; don’t fall sick, and the money we would have spent on hospital bills goes towards other important family,” said Umar.

Hauwa Isah Musa, nurse and midwife at the Miri Primary Health Care, is in charge of maternity and assisted Aisha during delivery two months ago. She remembers that Aisha gave birth to a healthy baby girl and that she started breastfeeding immediately.

Sadly, 3 in 5 babies globally are not so lucky and are not breastfed in the first hour of life, despite the fact that breastfeeding within an hour after birth is critical for saving newborn lives.

UNICEF is working hard to reverse this trend, including through its Every Child ALIVE campaign to save newborns and advocacy on breastfeeding.

With funding provided by the European Union (EU) and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), UNICEF, in collaboration with the Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency, has trained scores of Volunteer Community Mobilisers who are encouraging pregnant women and mothers to take up healthy infant and young child feeding practices and other primary healthcare services provided in Bauchi State, northeastern Nigeria.

 

For families like the Lawal family, it has made all the difference in the world.