When changing and challenging roles of mothers disadvantage newborns and the girl child

When changing and challenging roles of mothers disadvantage newborns and the girl child

While collecting quantitative data for my research in one of the slums in Kampala’s Makindye Division, I interacted with one of the women (Night-not real name) who was in her third trimester. She is a mother of four, living in a one roomed house with seven other household members.

During our interaction, Night tells me that she is the sole breadwinner of the household since the husband does not have a steady source of income. She shares with me her daily activities which include moving across town from Makindye to Nakawa market four times a week in order to buy food stuffs which she sells by the road side during the night. Night also tells me that only her son goes to school while all her three daughters stay home due to limited funds.

After about 2 to 3 weeks on a cold drizzly morning at around 09:30 a.m., I returned to the area for qualitative data collection with a colleague and we were welcomed by the cries of a newborn. The Nabakyala (women’s representative) confirms to us that Night had given birth 3 days earlier and the baby had been crying since 08:30 a.m. Night had left for business to Nakawa at about 5a.m.The baby boy was being cared for by one of the siblings who complained that the newborn could not stop crying and had refused to bottle feed.

Yet from research, we now know that bottle feeding a three day old baby can impact their growth and development forever. The first 1000 days of life is a period of enormous potential, but also of enormous vulnerability for the child.

While we were about to finish with our Focus Group Discussion at about 11a.m., Night came back with her merchandise from Nakawa and immediately starts breastfeeding. I noticed that baby suckled for a short while and slept off possibly due to fatigue. As we were leaving the area, Night asked me: “How do you rest when other children need you?” I was tongue-tied.

Here is a new baby who should be exclusively breastfed on demand and a postpartum mother who should be physically and emotionally resting and recovering. Night is not alone. Many women, especially in low resource settings, are facing such hard times.

We should also spare a thought for the three girls who are missing out on an education. What does the future hold for them? Today presents complex challenges to both maternal and child health that need multidisciplinary solutions.

*** Blog byMs. Grace Nantale who is currently a Masters of Public Health Nutrition student at MakSPH and one of our 2016 research grant awardees.

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