A government food safety officer, Rosinah Pitinyane-Modise told the media during a breastfeeding workshop last week that breastfeeding has been sharply declining in the country, with more mothers opting for infant formula.She said formula feeding became popular in Botswana largely because of HIV/AIDS prevalence but breastfeeding has countless advantages like better brain development; and protection of babies against diarrhoea, gastro-enteritis and tummy upsets. While the trend is said to be across all age brackets, young mothers are said to be leading in the use of infant formula as they opt to preserve the firmness of their 'two mountains' at the expense of the babies' healthy development.
Pitinyane-Modise said statistics indicate that only 20.6 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed up until six months in Botswana.The breastfeeding workshop was held to commemorate breastfeeding week, a global event marked during the first week of August. Overseen by the World Alliance For Breastfeeding Alliance (WABA), the event brings together breastfeeding advocates, government officials, groups and individuals to promote breastfeeding. To allow more space for advocacy and sensitisation, the coordinator of the event in Botswana, Princess Marina Referral Hospital, has decided to mark the week from October 2-8.
This years' theme is, 'Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers'. It focuses on breastfeeding peer counselling.At the workshop, Pitinyane-Modise spoke strongly against suboptimum breastfeeding, which she said accounts for an estimated 1.4 million deaths of children under five years annually in the world. In Botswana, studies have shown that 93 percent of infants admitted to hospital with diarrhoea were formula-fed, 21 percent of which die. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months after birth and continued breastfeeding, combined with safe and adequate complementary foods, up to two years or beyond is the optimal way of feeding infants.
Pitinyane-Modise said research has established a link between formula feeding and obesity in babies and adult life due to high fat concentration in cow milk. The studies show a high mortality rate among formula-fed infants from mixed feeding and diarrhea outbreak among non-breastfed children.The Botswana Family Health Survey (BFHS) 2007, shows that 40% of mothers initiate early breastfeeding, 45.5% continued breastfeeding beyond six months (6-9 months), 68% of pregnant women were HIV negative and 31.8% were living with HIV.
Sefetoleng Bogwasi said the first milk is essential as it contains colostrums, which acts like a 'paint' coating to protect the babies gut. The principal registered nurse and midwife, at Princess Marina said if any water or artificial feeds are given to babies, some of this 'paint' can be removed, allowing infections to get into the baby's system."Colostrum is a baby's first immunisation against many bacteria and viruses," she said. Meanwhile the workshop appreciated challenges posed to breastfeeding today for working mothers and issues of HIV/AIDS.