“As the world observes World Breastfeeding Week themed Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a Difference for working parents, glaring challenges emerge for breastfeeding mothers in informal employment.
Esther Opala, a nutritionist working with CFK Africa in Kibera Slums, is routinely involved in advocating for exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and sustained breastfeeding for up to two years.
Esther says due to the cash-based economy in the slum area most mothers resume work two months after breastfeeding. It means that the child might be deprived of nutrition if continuous breastfeeding is ignored.
‘We teach breastfeeding mothers from three months onwards on how to express their milk. We teach them how to store because for some they don’t have refrigerators. We teach them how to store for a period of 8 hours,’ Opala said.
Esther admits that indeed they have faced challenges following up on mothers working in the informal sector to ensure they espouse exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months.
‘Some mothers are hawkers and vendors and you will find them with their children at the workplace. We advise the mothers on hygiene measures during breastfeeding in such workplaces,’ she said.
Extreme poverty in the slums means that breastfeeding mothers lack adequate food to eat, especially with the increased cost of living.
Esther says the lack of adherence to food nutrition has led to increased cases of malnutrition.
‘The cost of living is high and so when you do the counseling on good nutrition some will tell you that they can’t afford it since they are living below a dollar in a day. So we teach them food security on how to plan with the little they get,’ said Opala.”
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Written by Irene Mwangi.