By Sharon Khauda, Nutrition Assistants, KRC Uganda, Kyaka II Refugee Settlement.
Inadequate breastfeeding practices, and knowledge among adolescent mothers are critical predisposing factors for infant and child morbidity and mortality. Sometimes, hurried or even forced exposure to motherhood and fatherhood misses out on important parenting life skills, including breast feeding.
Monitoring data and field experiences of implementing KRC Uganda’s Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) program reveal the daily struggles of adolescent mothers and fathers to breast feeding and general feeding of their babies.
This is the story of Aline Sifa, a 20-old mother of a six-months old baby. In February 2022, Sifa who had given birth to a preterm baby girl weighing 1.0kg early was accompanied by her husband Mugisha to Byabakora Health outpost to receive her Cone Soy Blend Plus Plus (CSB++) refill after being discharged from Bujubuli Health Centre III. She complained to the nutrition team at Byabakora Health Outpost that her breasts were filled up with breast milk but her baby had refused to breastfeed ever since she gave birth. The couple had resorted to giving their baby cow’s milk and other substitutes yet they didn’t have money to access them frequently. “Anxiety had set in, scared of losing my baby”, Says Sifa.
When the nutrition team assessed the baby, she had difficulty in suckling because her muscles were too weak. The couple was introduced to practical lessons on hand expression so that they can express the breastmilk and give the baby using a cup and a spoon. They advised her to observe strict hygiene by washing hands with clean water and soap. The couple was also advised to properly clean the utensils to be used, and introduce the mother to eating a balanced diet and drinking a lot of fluids so that she can produce enough breastmilk.
The KRC nutrition team continued to monitor the mother at her home and advised her to keep the baby indoors in a clean room, and keep her away from sick people to avoid contracting diseases since her immunity was still too low. Sifa was advised to exclusively breastfeed the baby for six complete months and carrying the baby skin to skin contact on the mother’s chest so that the baby can benefit from the warmth of the mother and gain weight.
As a result, the baby’s health improved, gained a health weighing and started to suckle the breast properly on her own without any difficulty.
“Every day, I make sure I do what the health workers told me to do. I have also since stopped giving cow’s milk until when its time to do so”. Sifa Aline