Baby Care

Bauchi woman blames non-compliance to exclusive breastfeeding on family elders’ influence

A nursing mother in Bulkachuwa town, Katagum local government area, Mrs Hassana Usman has blamed her non-compliance to the practice of exclusive breastfeeding for their babies as required on family elders’ influence that put pressure on them not to do it.

This is as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) intensified campaign for mothers to embrace exclusive breastfeeding as well as making effort to secure six months maternity leave for working mothers.

While there are indications that many are adhering to the practice, some are lagging, owing to some cultural beliefs and influence from family elders.

During a recent facilities visit by a group of Journalists to celebrate the 2023 World Breastfeeding Week (WBW), the breastfeeding mother said that, in all her deliveries, she has never practiced exclusive breastfeeding for six months.

According to her, “I have Eight children and all of them survived with breast milk and boiled water which I fed them with from three to four days after birth.”

Hassana Usman told a team of Journalists who were on a field visitation at Bulkachuwa Primary Health Center after concluding a recent Media Dialogue to mark the 2023 World Breastfeeding Week organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Azare town, Katagum local government area of Bauchi.

Looking so confident in what she was saying, Hassana Usman said that she has been made to believe that there is no wrong in complementing breast milk with water for a child below six months as being advocated by health experts.

She however admitted that it is good to adhere to calls for exclusive breastfeeding of babies for six months and other advice from health experts, said pressure from family elders has necessitated her action.

“We have elders in our households and we believe they know better than us, so we have no option but to yield to their influence. I use to give boiled water to my babies as complement to the breast milk and weaned them after 18 months,” she said.

According to her, there are many women in her community who share similar opinions and experiences with her despite hearing from the authorities about the health benefits of exclusive breastfeeding to both the child and the mother.

“I do come for antenatal care and immunization at this hospital and they use to tell us about exclusive breastfeeding and other health tips, but I don’t think it is mandatory to adhere to it,” Hassana Usman who was at the Bulkachuwa Primary Health Care center on routine immunisation said.

“Any time I try to embrace the practice, they say I am punishing the baby by not feeding them enough. They will say breast milk alone is not enough for the baby and that I should complement it with water,” Hassana Usman revealed.

However, for Maryam Abdulkadir, a resident of Bulkachuwa Community, exclusive breastfeeding has impacted positively the lives of her babies.

“I have two children and all of them benefitted from exclusive breastfeeding. Their performance in education is very pleasing,” she said.

Maryam Abubakar who is married to health personnel said having realized the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, she was able to practice it on her two children she has been calling on her neighbours to also do same.

“I have been advising them to practice exclusive breastfeeding because it gives protection to children against child killer diseases”, she said.

Mrs Abdulkadir who said her first child is in primary three, acknowledged that her performance in the school is exceptional.

“My two children don’t easily fall sick anyhow and they look much healthier all the time, even if they do, the sickness is always mild, and as such, we the parents don’t spend money on treating ailments,” she said.

She, therefore, urged other women who are not practicing exclusive breastfeeding to embrace the practice for the good health of their children.

Mrs Abdulkadir who said the lack secluded area for nursing mothers in workplaces to breastfeed their babies is a problem that needs to be addressed observed that many women who are shy find it difficult to breastfeed their babies when due.

She, however, called on the government to reduce working hours for women as well as provide crèches for nursing mothers to enable them fully practice exclusive breastfeeding.

Speaking, the official in charge of the Bulkachuwa Primary Health Center, Musa Samaila Madachi, said that they have sensitising the women on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding any time they come for antenatal care.

Madachi who said compliance to exclusive breastfeeding has improved among women in Bulkachuwa, however, said, some still see it as a new thing brought to them.

According to him, as a result of cultural beliefs, once a baby cries, they feel he is thirsty and will rush to give him water instead of feeding the child with breast milk.

He enjoined nursing mothers to practice exclusive breastfeeding for six months to save their babies from child-killer diseases, adding that breast milk contains the required quantity needed for the babies.

On his part, the Director Katagum local government Health Authority, Alhaji Jibrin Mohammed Inuwa said any time health officers from the local government go to service delivery point, they advocated for exclusive breastfeeding of babies up to six months after birth.

“We try to ensure that our personnel sensitise women on the need to embrace exclusive breastfeeding any time they come for antenatal care or immunization and those who delivered at the hospital,” he said.

He said that the health authority in the state has been taking proactive measures to ensure that women practice exclusive breastfeeding by involving various Community groups in the awareness creation.

“There’s what we call Community Resource Group, this group is helping us carry out door-to-door awareness creation, they sensitise the women, both pregnant and those with babies. They sensitize them on the need for women to go for antenatal care once she becomes pregnant,” he said.



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