Poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days of children’s lives (from conception to 24 months after delivery) can have irreversible consequences on health. Good nutrition through exclusive breastfeeding for six months significantly improves a child’s chance of survival and long-term good health. The agenda for the conference focused on exercising women’s rights, children’s rights, and the rights to food, nutrition, and maternity protection. Areas that are fundamental to achieving good nutrition, such as the framework for action on child nutrition, including emerging issues of obesity and HIV/AIDS, were also analysed.Nozi Samela a working mom shared said, “My biggest wish is for all the mothers – living with HIV or not – to be able to breastfeed their children in peace, whenever and wherever they choose to. I wish society can stop treating breastfeeding like it is a disgusting thing to do. Human milk is what human babies are supposed to be eating, it is so with all the other mammals, and I have no idea why we choose to believe otherwise.”
Breastfeeding rates across the globe are low. In South Africa, the status quo is similar, with approximately 45% of mothers choosing to breastfeed their babies. This is more so among mothers living with HIV, despite the World Health Organization recommendations that HIV-positive women can safely exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months, while they themselves are on HIV treatment. Mentor Mother Irene Nkosi said, “The support and love I received while pregnant at m2m was so different than my last pregnancy. I knew everything I had to do to protect my baby from infection. I could make an informed decision as to how I feed my child and I chose to breastfeed her.”m2m South African country director Dr. Shungu Gwarinda said in her opening speech, “For women living with HIV, the impact of social norms regarding infant feeding practices, as well as cultural customs increase the risk of mixed feeding, which in turn increases the risk of mother to child transmission of HIV to infants.”
“As mothers2mothers, we promote exclusive breastfeeding. Among several of our peer-based interventions, we train and employ local HIV-positive women as Mentor Mothers to work alongside nurses and doctors in public health facilities and within communities. Mentor mother provide peer based health education and support to pregnant and new mothers,” concluded Gwarinda in her speech.