Many women in Senegal give birth to children with low birth weight regardless of financial status. This may be caused by: premature birth, poor maternal health or nutrition and lack of adequate prenatal care.
Many newborns are often too sick to go home hence needing to stay at the hospital’ intensive care units for monitoring and treatment. Unfortunately not all infants have that luxury. Due to the lack of capacity of these units to care for many infants at once and most parents’ strained financial ability to afford their children’s stay at the hospital, most infants in need of intensive care are sent home too soon. Those who are able to stay at the hospital are given formula instead of their mother’s milk. Lack of access to mother’s milk at the earliest stages of infancy prevents babies from obtaining optimal nutrition for development.
Mother’s milk is often times referred to as a child’s « first vaccination », strengthening a child’s immunity against many diseases. Lack of access to mother’s milk is caused by multiple factors. Let us elaborate on a few:
Some infants are unable to breastfeed successfully as a result of premature birth and not having developed the sucking reflex.
Others are unable to breastfeed because they are inside incubators connected to feeding and intravenous tubes.
Some mothers wish to breastfeed but are unable to as a result of illness or low milk production leaves even healthy infants without access to key nutrition for development and creates a reliance on formula, which can be costly.
In some cases, mothers who want to give their child breastmilk, their only option is to use syringes to extract the breast milk directly from the milk duct, which can be a very painful, inefficient and time consuming process.
Mothers who are unable to feed their babies are stuck with many problems:Prior to giving birth or as soon as they give birth their bodies start producing milk. Not being able to dispose of that milk, the breasts get heavy and start to leak. Constant breast milk leakage soils mother’s clothes and bedsheets ( makes them wet and smelly) ( Hence the need of breast pads, we plan to teach women how to make them).
The inability to express the milk from their breasts leads to painful engorgement, and causes blockages in the milk ducts, which can inhibit future production of breastmilk. Other side effects of engorgement include mastitis, an infection within the milk ducts that also causes fevers and headaches to the mothers. The cessation of milk production can be tragic financially for the parents and medically for the child in this context: Because of poverty, most mothers in the developing world simply cannot afford formula, making breast milk their only option to feed their infant. The use of formula also poses risks of infection due to the lack of education about proper ways of washing bottles, sterilization, and milk disposal.
In all, If the infant is unable to have access to neither breastmilk or formula, then the child is at greater risk for malnutrition, increasing the chances of infant mortality.
Our main purpose at LAIIT Initiative is to improve breast milk access to infants who are unable to breastfeed or latch on and those receiving intensive care and treatment at a medical facility.
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