Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Many women especially first time mothers miss an important step in appropriate newborn care, and as such, do not initiate their babies on breast milk in the initial hours after childbirth. This is according to the State Minister for Primary Health Care Dr Joyce Moriku Kaducu.
The minister says health workers are supposed to help parents make appropriate feeding decisions for their children as soon as they are born. But records show that only 35 per cent of mothers receive counselling in the first two hours of giving birth.
Dr Moriku says the statistics are depressing considering the overflow of unregulated marketing information regarding alternatives for breast milk and feeding supplements. She was officiating at a breakfast meeting of public health professionals convened to strategize on policies that favour breastfeeding as part of events to mark the annual breastfeeding week.
She said however that some mothers are constrained from having their babies breastfeed as recommended because some employers don’t accord them the entire 60 days of maternity leave. She said now that UNICEF has recommended an increase in the number of paid leave days for mothers, the government will need to review the existing law to fit into what is being advocated for as best practices across the world.
But, at the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development, Nuluyati Nabiwunde, a Labor officer told journalists that before advocating for an increase in the number of days, there’s a need to ensure that women actually take that leave as many currently think maternity leave doesn’t apply to those in the informal sector.
She says the Gender Ministry is formulating a maternity protection package in addition to the already existing parenting guidelines that will have a provision on breastfeeding for working mothers and what they should have in place at their workplaces to enable them to work and at various intervals check on their babies.
For her, the biggest challenge with breastfeeding now is not the number of leave days but the growing trend of new mothers preferring delivering through the Caesarian section and using supplements instead of breastfeeding.
She said the International Labor Organisation has long recommended increased paid leave beyond the 60 days for Uganda but many employers still say that’s that period is too long for workers not to be productive.
Last month, UNICEF released a dossier for low and middle-income countries to increase paid maternity leave to up to five months if we are to give children the best start in life. The agency also called upon countries to come up with policies that support healthy brain development and strengthen the bond between parents and their children.
For now, however, in Uganda, though health workers recommend six months of exclusive breastfeeding, many mothers struggle to fulfill this whereas others have resorted to expressing breast milk as they go out to work since maternity leave is only 60 working days.