Breast becoming best in Côte d’Ivoire
Meet Oley De Mel, mother of three young children: a girl and two boys.
Oley exclusively breastfed all three of her children for at least the first six months and is currently working and breastfeeding her nine-month old baby. She continued to breastfeed her other children for 15 months and 21 months respectively, and has hopes to do the same with her youngest.
Oley told us she was motivated to investigate breastfeeding because doctors recommended to her to exclusively breastfeed for six months before slowly introducing solid foods. Oley also saw some posters in hospitals, supported by international NGOs in partnership with the Health Ministry, encouraging exclusive breastfeeding.
“I read a lot about both the mental and physical benefits that breastfeeding could bring to a child, so there were no other options for me. Breastfeeding does mean a lot of sleepless nights, but the exchange of love, eye contact, skin-to-skin and bonding moments are worth every deprivation!” she says.
Supporting breastfeeding in Cote d’Ivoire
According to the latest data available, the 2016 MICS survey (a new MICS survey is underway), Oley is representative of a positive and growing breastfeeding trend in Côte d’Ivoire. The survey showed that 23.5% of children under six months are exclusively breastfed, 88.1% of children were breastfed for at least one year and 29% of children were breastfed for at least 20 months.
Breastfeeding expert, Dr. Patricia N’Goran-Theckly, said mothers who choose to breastfeed, exclusively or for longer periods of time, still need more support within health structures, social structures and through support groups to reinforce its good practice and nutritional benefits. Oley agrees with this view because she knows through experience breastfeeding is not as easy as it seems, and she would like to see more trained nurses to educate and encourage exclusive breastfeeding, as well as promoting skin-to-skin contact with baby.
Dr. N’Goran-Theckly also said it is necessary to continue work to make communities aware of the breastfeeding benefits through support groups, sensitization films, campaigns, advertisements and testimonies. Oley would also like to see men being bought into the conversation as allies.
Working and breastfeeding mothers
Oley continued feeding her baby when she went back to work, so we asked her what helped the most: “The understanding of my bosses and a breast pump! I was allowed to take breaks and express the milk that I would then store in the office fridge until the end of the day. I was also allowed more flexibility thanks to the national law encouraging breastfeeding mothers to start and/or finish work earlier than normal office hours.”
This experience resonates with Dr. N’Goran-Theckly. “Mothers who want to return to the workforce need special support and training to show them how to express and store breastmilk, as well as knowing labor codes in Côte d’Ivoire provide for them too,” she said.
Other measures the Government and partners have been working on to increase the rate of breastfeeding include:
- Creation in August 2021 of a National Committee for the promotion, protection, support of breastfeeding and early childhood development (CNAPE).
- Launch in November 2019 of the national and regional caravan on breastfeeding without water
- Development in 2019 of a multi-sectoral national policy and plan for breastfeeding (PNMA)
- Strengthening of the regulatory framework around authorizing and advertising Breastmilk substitutes.
Does Oley have a tip for new mothers who are thinking about breastfeeding? “Yes! My tip is that breastfeeding brings many benefits to both the child AND the mother.“
Oley De Mel is the mother of three young children: a girl and two boys. Oley exclusively breastfed all three of her children for at least the first six months and is currently working and breastfeeding her nine-month old baby.