Double the breastfeeding efforts, double the pride for every child
“Right now, my twins are 15 months old, and I intend to breastfeed them up to 24 months in line with recommended UNICEF and WHO guidelines. This will strengthen my bond with them because I am a working mother.”
Harare, Zimbabwe - Jaqualline Mango (34) describes the breastfeeding experience of her twins as a signature of pride!
Mango, a Primary School Teacher from Goromonzi, Mashonaland East Province, was elated when she gave birth to a set of twins, a boy and a girl. It was the third time she was giving birth, but the first time to experience a double portion of motherhood. A feeling of uncertainty overwhelmed her.
Nonetheless, she promised to nurture the twins using breast milk, the most basic, affordable, and highly nutritious baby food.
“It is important for me to breastfeed my twins because it helps me create and nurture a love bond as the babies receive adequate nourishment,” said Mango.
World Breastfeeding Week will run from Tuesday, the 1st of August, to Monday, the 7th of August 2023.
This year’s World Breastfeeding Week will be titled “Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a Difference for working parents.”
UNICEF is working closely with the Government of Zimbabwe and the World Health Organization (WHO) to promote the practice of exclusive breastfeeding until six months of age and continued breastfeeding until two years.
For Mango, the decision for prolonged breastfeeding was to make up for breastfeeding time lost while she was at work.
“As a working mother, I do not have much time with my babies. I wake up at 5 am and drive to Harare for work by 8:30 am. I leave employment at 4 pm and get home by 6 pm.
“Right now, my twins are 15 months old, and I intend to breastfeed them up to 24 months in line with recommended UNICEF and WHO guidelines. This will strengthen my bond with them because I am a working mother,” she explained.
Mango lightened up as she explained how her two-year breastfeeding routine, initiated by her two older children, had bred well-nourished and intelligent children.
“I am now a mother of four, and I have breastfed my two older children for two years each. Prolonged breastfeeding is my policy and source of pride. The level of social development for all my children is always top notch and the older ones have grown up to be very intelligent. There can never be any substitute for breast milk,” she said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) notes with concern that low breastfeeding rates are proliferated by the marketing of breast milk and inappropriate complementary foods, putting children’s health at risk both in the short and long term.
Globally, exclusive and continued breastfeeding could help prevent 13 per cent of deaths among children under five.
UNICEF and WHO recommend that children initiate breastfeeding within the first hour of birth and be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life – meaning no other foods or liquids are provided, including water. Infants should be breastfed on demand –as often as the child wants, day and night.
It is further recommended that children receive complementary foods from 6 months with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.
Meanwhile, amidst Mango’s joys of motherhood were challenges. Mango lamented how she usually suffers from fatigue since she spends the whole day at work and comes home to a pair of breastfeeding babies, who typically keep her up for the better part of the night. She thanked her spouse and child-minder for rescuing her when the going gets tough.
Ministry of Health and Child Care Chipinge District Nutritionist Samkeliso Masikati said mothers who do not conform to the recommended two-year breastfeeding period raise poorly nourished babies who go on to struggle with repeated preventable illnesses such as diarrhoea and acute respiratory tract infections (ARI).
“Cases of malnutrition that we often witness are from babies who are weaned too early before the recommended two years. Mothers often wean babies too early for various reasons such as lack of education and awareness, work commitments, failure to produce adequate milk and even traditional myths associated with breastfeeding during pregnancy,” she said.
Masikati, however, emphasised that it was safe for a pregnant mother to continue breastfeeding her baby until the point of labour.
According to UNICEF, 42% of children in Zimbabwe are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, while a quarter suffer from chronic malnutrition.
Chipinge District Village Health worker Richard Makwinimizi said men in his community now support breastfeeding following the introduction of a new law by Chief Mapungwana.
“The new law penalises any couple where a home delivery happens, or a mother fails to breastfeed because she has fallen pregnant and fails to take the child under five for regular health checks. In extreme cases, " fines range from a chicken, a goat or even a cow,” said Makwinimizi.
He emphasised that Chief Mapungwana and his village heads and health workers now work hand in hand to enforce the new law, which has steadily improved breastfeeding rates in the district.
UNICEF, under the Health Development Fund supported by the European Union, UK Aid, Sweden, Irish AID and GAVI in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, supports health workers and communities around the country to promote, protect and support breastfeeding.