The exclusive breastfeeding dilemma for Nigerian mothers


Exclusive breastfeeding is the best but according to these Nigerian mothers, it is unrealistic. Dr Vickie reports.

“He was bigger than this, in fact maybe twice this size,” a mother said while trying to describe how severely the watery stool affected her son Jude.

Jude was a 6-month old infant that was rushed to the children emergency unit on account of recurrent passage of loose watery stool for three weeks at a frequency of 12 episodes in eight hours.

According to the mother, Jude was exclusively breastfed for four months before she began to introduce ‘liquid food’ which didn’t go down well with Jude who began to excrete watery stool after which it became recurrent.

“I tried pap, triple mix ( pap-like meal made up of mixture of cereals and nuts), and other can foods all of which Jude reacted to,” she said.

According to several medical experts, Jude is not the only infant with such presentation, it is something that has been found to be associated with infants that are prematurely weaned.

Breast feeding is the first feeding method that comes to mind when a newborn is born, it is accepted by all mothers regardless of religion, cultural practice or level of education. It is the oldest means of feeding an infant. According to medical science, a mother’s breast milk contains the major nutrients that help an infant to grow well and thrive. Medical nutritionists who spoke to HealthNewsNG also affirmed that the breast milk also boosts a bay’s immune system thus lowering future healthcare spending.

While some mothers are finding it easy, a lot of others are finding it rather tasking to carry out exclusive breastfeeding. Studies have shown that there are a lot of factors that will determine if a mother will exclusively breastfeed or mix feeds (that is to combine breastmilk with other food), these include the age of the mother and marital status as children out of wedlock might suffer compared with others in a united family either planned or not.

Socioeconomic factor is another factor. It is believed that women in the society are the real deal, and the level of education, working condition, exposure and other important factors like the social support are all to be considered.

Educating new mothers

“Education has got to help a lot of women in learning the basics since everyone want the best for their kids, in addition, it empowered the woman and give them the ability to make a trust worthy decision for themselves, the children and for the family as a whole,” a medical expert said.

“I have had to start educating some young mothers in church when I noticed one of them gave a  three-week old baby water beside me. Can you imagine? I could not bear it, it has got to stop but I cannot make the decision for them but I can educate them. Therefore after initiating breast feeding, the decision has to be made if its going to be exclusive or not.”

Social support

Social support is a pluripotent tool – it can be a positive influence or a negative one.  Some mothers have to know how others did it and survive the exclusive stage considering most workplaces do not make provision or special consideration for nursing mothers.

“Even medical doctors are affected. Having a baby as a doctor working in a hospital does not stop your baby from suffering. So their decision might be dependent on the experience of other people,” said Dr Feyikemi Adepoju.

Another critical issue bothering on breastfeeding is the volume of milk expressed by the mother. While some mothers may express enough milk that could last till mid- day and keep their children nearby to be able to breastfeed during break time, some cannot produce enough volume – yet others will just opt out of exclusive breastfeeding when they resume work.

Many doctors and nurses interacting with new mothers revealed that while the educated ones are giving exclusive breastfeeding  a shot, the uneducated ones don’t even think about it, they said it comes naturally for them to introduce water, drugs and other liquids to their infant.

“I’m always busy attending to customers, I can’t bear the noise he made when he’s hungry so I have to balance breastmilk and water to ensure he is always full,” said Mrs Adewoye, a trader.

“Breast milk is not enough for my baby, he’s growing so fast and within 30 minutes of breastfeeding, he will start crying, so there’s no way I will not give him pap,” said another mother, a tailor.

This observation among new mothers’ diverse perspective on breastfeeding could be a key tool in designing locally relevant initiatives to boost exclusive breastfeeding which is already popular but unattractive to those who truly need the message.


About Author

Dr. Victoria Adepoju is a graduate of the College of Health Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, Nigeria. She also holds a diploma in Community Health from the School of Hygiene Eleyele Ibadan, Nigeria. Currently with the Babcock University Teaching Hospital, she provides special insights into topical issues as they affect various stakeholders in the health sector with special emphasis on day-to-day operations of the various units in the hospital. She has vast experience reporting health and continues to cover major events for

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