We hear and say it all the time – breastfeeding gives your child the best start in life.
We also hear the stories of women who can’t breastfeed their babies, because of social pressures, pain, time, or medical problems. We hear about the guilt experienced by mothers who can’t. We hear about the health effects on babies who weren’t. This is a complex situation requiring compassion — and action!
I was confronted this week by a stunning statistic from a recent World Vision report – A million have fled from South Sudan to Uganda. Another million have gone to Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia. 81 per cent of mothers who have fled conflict and chaos in South Sudan to seek refuge in Uganda exclusively breastfeed their children for the first six months of their lives.
What conclusion can we draw?
That African mothers have no access to alternatives? That they breastfeed because they have more time and fewer demands -- although those demands may be far worse than we can imagine? That a child born as a refugee has a better chance at getting that best nutritional start than a child born into wealth in one of the world’s richest countries?
If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then we all have some serious realities to confront.