By Michael Gwarisa
WORKING environments should be conducive enough to allow women to breastfeed during working hours, Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa has said.
He said this while officially opening the 2017 World Breast Feeding Week in Highfields today (3 August 2017).
“When children are breast fed, they get sick less often. Employers benefit from having a more contended and productive workforce due to less employee absenteeism, increased loyalty and less staff turnover. Parental protection and other workplace policies can enable women to combine breastfeeding with paid work.
“Workplaces, whether formal or informal should create environments that allow time for women to breast feed their babies or express and store breast milk to be fed to their babies while they are away. Examples include family friendly workplace initiatives and creches at or nearby the workplace. This includes enacting maternity leave policies that assist women to breast feed children for the six months of life. As a nation, we are not yet there but we are working towards it.
“Lets look at breast feeding in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is a breastfeeding nation, with 98 out of every 100 children being over breast fed at some point in their lives. The challenge however is when it comes to adhering to the recommendations for optimum breast feeding. Only 48 out of 100 children are given breast milk only up to the age of six months,” said Dr Parirenytwa.
He added that half of all the children are given breast milk only for two months of their lives. This he however said predisposes children to infections and compromises their growth and development.
“Following six months of breast milk only to infants, babies should continue to be breast fed while receiving other nutritious, diverse foods which are prepared safely.
“The Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS) of 2015 reveals that only 35 out of 100 children are being fed the appropriate number of times for their age while only 28 out of 100 are fed from at least four food groups. Consequently, only eight out of every 100 children below the age of two years are fed appropriate number of times for their age from at least four groups.”
In Zimbabwe, about 26 out of 100 children are too short for their age indicating a manifestation of inappropriate feeding practices hence the need to practice optimum breast feeding practices.
Breastfeeding according to experts provides with optimal nutrition and protection against infections for infants. It is also a low cost way of feeding babies without burdening households with the need for extra financial resources for feeding.
It also contains antibodies which protect babies against illness thus improving the survival of infants and children and is also a natural, renewable food that is environmentally safe.