Yesterday marked the start of a week-long series of events to highlight the critical role that breastfeeding plays in preventing childhood illness and mortality and the benefits it has for child survival, growth and development.
Medical research has shown that a child who is not breastfed is 14 times more likely to die before the age of six months than one who has been breastfed. Such a child is also at risk of stunting, is five times more likely to die from diarrhoea and is unlikely to reach her full cognitive or earning capacity if not breastfed in the first two years.
In Kenya, many women have no option but to stop breastfeeding their babies once they return to work after the three-month maternity leave. Only a minuscule number of employers consider the needs of such working mothers. Majority do not provide their female workforce with flexible working schedules or even in-house care centres where the mothers can take time to breastfeed their babies.
As Kenya joins the world in the week-long events, we ask those concerned with the health and wellbeing of our children to review the laws and ensure that nursing mothers are not punished but encouraged to breastfeed their children.