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29.04.2005 Regional News

Doctor says culture affects breastfeeding

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Aflao, April 29, GNA - The difficulties with exclusive breastfeeding of 0-6 months old babies in the Ketu District in the Volta region are related to culture.

Dr Gabriel S. Mensah, the Medical Director of Central Aflao Hospital Limited, a private hospital, said this in an interview with a team of monitors undertaking a week-long exercise to assess compliance with the Ghana Breastfeeding Promotion Regulation 2000, L.I. 1667.

The nationwide exercise jointly sponsored by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) focuses on health institutions, Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs), mothers and the sale and promotion of infant formulas.

" For cultural reasons mothers do not do exclusive breastfeeding and have to give "akple", a local maize meal and water at about 4-5 months,'' Dr Mensah said.

He said in the view of the people, including the educated, ''if you eat you must drink water."

He said infant formulas are not popular with lactating mothers in the district because they are expensive.

Dr Mensah said mixed feeding, a combination of breastfeeding and other feeding practices, is particularly rampant in the villages and among mothers who do not attend antenatal and post-natal clinics. He suggested that education on exclusive breastfeeding in the district should focus more on the rural communities where the inclination towards culture is very strong.

Mr Roderick Daddey-Adjei, Senior Regulatory Officer of the Food and Drugs Board (FDB), said breast-feeding campaigns by companies that sell infant formulas should be viewed with suspicion.

He said it is ironical for companies that market infant formulas to teach mothers how to do proper and exclusive breastfeeding in order that they do not patronise their products.

Mr Daddey-Adjei said the methods taught by such companies rather result in improper breastfeeding practices as they make breastfeeding uncomfortable to both mother and child.

Mrs Narkie Terlabie, Volta and Eastern region Zone Officer of the FDB, said where for some good reasons, mothers could not practice exclusive breastfeeding of their babies, expert advise should be sought from doctors rather than lay people.

Some of the mothers said exclusive breastfeeding has been beneficial to them because their children do not fall sick compared with those times when they practised mixed feeding.

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