Children exclusively breastfed for the first six months and continued breastfeeding for two years perform better in school, according to the Ministry of health.
Head of preventive and promotive health Dr Peter Cherutich says that children who are exclusively breastfed for six months start off on a good footing in life because they are less likely to get sick, less likely to die and they actually do better in school.
“Breastfeeding is linked to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 on greater health and wellbeing as it is one of the high impact nutrition intervention for reducing under five mortality and morbidity as well as the resultant benefits for the health and wellbeing of the mothers,” says Dr Cherutich.
He said that the government has created an enabling environment for breastfeeding mothers at the workplace through enactment of the Health Act 2017, which requires every employer to establish lactation station with the necessary equipment and facilities.
Furthermore, breastfeeding ensures a child combats infectious diseases, decrease incidents of severity of diarrhea, lower respiratory infections and acute otitis media, prevents dental carries and malocclusion, and increases intelligence.
Speaking on Wednesday while flagging off a walk for the World breastfeeding week at the Ministry of health headquarters in Nairobi, Dr Cherutich explained that breastfeeding also helps mothers in birth spacing, reduces risk of breast and ovarian cancers and lowers the risk of hypertension and diabetes.
“Every year we celebrate the world breastfeeding week and the goal of these celebrations is to mobilise communities, mothers and health workers to ensure that every child in Kenya is breastfed at the very first hour of life,” said Dr. Cherutich.
He explained that for the first six months the child should be exclusively breastfed – that is without any additions not even baby water, milk, fruit juice or anything else. “It is our policy as government that a child should be exclusively breastfed in the first six months of life and of course depending on children weaning can begin thereafter,” he said.
Dr. Cherutich said that there is room for improvement in the key national indicators for Infant and Young Children Feeding (IYCF) practices since data at the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) 2014 indicate that 62 percent of infants were initiated to breastfeeding within the recommended one hour of birth; two in every three children younger than six months were breastfed exclusively; and 21 percent of children are breastfed up to two years.