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Breastfeeding in West Africa

Dana Smith
Ouagadougou Burkina Faso
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 1, January-February 2006, p. 12

Recently, my husband and I moved to West Africa to the landlocked country of Burkina Faso. Because I was a nursing mother, I quickly noticed all of the nursing mothers around me. It is interesting to see that all of the things that are slowly coming back into style for nursing mothers in the US have never gone out of style here. It's common for breastfeeding to be recognized as the best, healthiest, cheapest, and easiest way to raise a baby.

In Burkina Faso, most babies are tied to their mother's backs all day with a length of cotton cloth. No fancy ties or buckles here. When a mother has to be outside in the sun, she ties a lightweight cotton cloth over her shoulder to cover her baby's head. When baby needs to nurse, mother just swings her baby around to her side and latches him on. I never noticed a mother who was embarrassed to nurse in public here. She can simply lift up her shirt or take her breast out from the top of her dress and continue to farm, sell vegetables, or talk and laugh with family and friends with no sign of unease. It's wonderful to see!

The drinking water can't be trusted to mix formula, so breastfed babies avoid all types of parasite problems. Most people here are so poor they can't buy bottles or formula anyway. But why should they -- human milk is already there, benefits mother and baby, and doesn't cost anything!

It is a treat to be a nursing mother in a society that is so open and friendly about breastfeeding.

Last updated Wednesday, October 25, 2006 by njb.
Page last edited .


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