Listen to this article here
A new law in Kenya should encourage more and more Kenyan mothers go to breastfeed their babies. On May 30, a new law will restrict the marketing of infant formula, baby bottles and pacifiers.
The law responds to aggressive social media marketing tactics encouraging Kenyan mothers to use breastmilk substitutes. Infant formula sold in stores will now carry labels that read “breast is best” and other pro-breastfeeding slogans.
Meanwhile, Kenya already has high rates of breastfeeding among mothers and infants. More than 60% of infants are breastfed by the age of six months.
Breastfeeding rates in Kenya are much higher than the global average of 44%. This is likely due to national policies that encourage and support breastfeeding mothers.
In Kenya, mothers get three months paid maternity leave, while fathers get two weeks. In addition, companies are required to provide lactation rooms and work breaks for pumping.
In the United States, on the other hand, if mothers benefit from 12 weeks of maternity leave, this is without pay. Moreover, the rule only applies to large companies with a certain number of workers.
Maternal Health Disparities Complicate Breastfeeding for Black American Mothers
These policies may be contributing to declining breastfeeding rates among black mothers in the United States. Only six months 28% of black babies are still breastfed.
Black women report barriers to breastfeeding, including a lack of lactation support provided by hospitals, as well as racial disparities in pregnancy-related health outcomes. Black women are more likely to deliver premature, low birth weight babies than white women.
And pregnancy among black women in the United States is risky business, with black women more likely to experience health complications and even death. The maternal mortality rate among black women is nearly three times that of white women.
Meanwhile, health providers have created initiatives to help more black women breastfeed their babies. The Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association is a national organization that provides support to black women during pregnancy and postpartum.
BMBFA provides virtual support groups as well as lactation consultants for mothers. There is also a community doula program for expectant mothers seeking support during their pregnancy.
In addition, formula shortages like the one currently facing the United States disproportionately affects black American families, while Kenyan mothers are at less risk. However, many mothers fear that the new law in Kenya will stigmatize mothers who feed formula.
According Sharon Macharia, a Kenyan woman who breastfeeds her daughter, the new law is helpful, but excludes working mothers. She says, “For career women and women with health complications, the formula is the savior.”