WHO suggests that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life. UNICEF data for Liberia for 2013 suggests that 55% of babies 0-5 months of age are exclusively breastfed although it’s only 34% for the whole West African region:
I can’t find the accurate figure of percentage of babies who are still being exclusively breastfed at 6 months of age in Liberia but it might be around 20%. We’ve been hearing today that lots of babies get “gripe water” in the first few days of life. I think it still has alcohol in it here. Besides formula, they are also fed corn and rice cereals from a very young age.
Breastfeeding should be initiated within the first hour of birth and one of the issues in Liberia which might be contributing to the poor breastfeeding rates is the birth practice which removes the baby from the mother for the first vital minutes to clean and dress it. Instead of this, the newborn – whilst being kept warm of course – should be delivered on to the mother’s abdomen, dried except for the hands and he/she will “commando crawl” up to the breast on its own. This is shown beautifully in one of the excellent Global Media videos that I’ve mentioned before. Have a look at it here: https://globalhealthmedia.org/portfolio-items/early-initiation-of-breastfeeding/?portfolioCats=191%2C94%2C13%2C23%2C65. We played this video to the learners (who were all midwives) on the first Newborn Care Course earlier this week. They went away with good intentions to change their practice. I think it could do with being shown in a few centres in the UK too.