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Breastfeeding in Rwanda

Week 2 Heading link

Nursing student in front of sign

Angelique Muhammad, DNP Student

Breastfeeding is the cultural norm in this Rwandan maternity unit. I watched with enthusiasm the Nurse Midwife act as the primary care provider. The baby girl arrived with a high-pitched cry and was placed on her mother’s abdomen. This is when the journey to receive her mother’s milk began. Let’s call this baby girl princess. Her mother told me this was her first baby girl, which she called her “little princess.” After a vigorous dry baby girl princess was placed on her mother’s chest, this is called skin-to-skin contact. It is not uncommon in Rwanda to see a father involved in the breastfeeding process. Initially, the mother was having some difficulty latching the baby onto the nipple area after birth. However, the father provided hands-on assistance with the breastfeeding latch.

I was surprised and delighted to see this mother with her baby girl princess in the antenatal clinic this week. I asked her with joy, “How is breastfeeding going?” “Great!” she said. According to UNICEF, “Up to 87 percent of Rwanda’s mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies during the first six months of life.”

Rwandan mothers are encouraged to breastfeed within the first hour after birth and give the baby mother’s milk only for the first six months (UNICEF, 2019). A 12-week paid maternity leave is the standard for new mothers in Rwanda. This policy must make achieving the six-month exclusive breastmilk goal more achievable!

Rwanda is a hub for homegrown tea. The tea factories employ a predominantly female workforce. Therefore, the Rwandan tea factories have solid family-friendly policies such as flexible work hours and breastfeeding rooms (UNCIEF, 2019). These family-friendly policies build a bridge to accomplishing the two-year World Health Organization (WHO) recommended breastfeeding goal.

Angelique Muhammad, MSN, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is a second-year Doctor of Nursing Practice Midwifery student. She holds a Master of Science in Nursing from Saint Xavier University with an emphasis in clinical nurse leadership. Angelique traveled to Kigali, Rwanda in July 2022 for the Global Maternal-Child Health study abroad program. Angelique continues to work as a Childbirth Educator, UIC College of Nursing Maternal Child Clinical Nursing Instructor and serves on many committees such as the “Taskforce on Infant and Maternal Mortality Among African Americans.”

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