Some Ugandan women have voiced out against the growing trend of being coerced by their husbands to breastfeed them – a practice said to have constituted a problem for breastfeeding mothers.
Some of the women’s accounts were published in a recent research conducted by the Kyambogo University, Kampala, and the University of Kent, UK, supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund.
The study was carried out in Buikwe District in the Central Region of Uganda, where it is believed to be rampant, reports The Guardian UK.
The researchers spoke to women and men in the district who confirmed the practice.
A lead researcher on the project, Rowena Merritt, who is a British behavioural scientist specialized in public health, said: “It was very much an exploratory mission. We didn’t know if we would find anybody willing to talk to us who admitted to doing it. We didn’t even really know if it was real or not.
“One said: ‘I know other men do it, but we’ve never talked about it.’ So that to me would suggest that it is a common behaviour, but it isn’t socially accepted,” he said.
Merritt said their initial findings showed that most of the women are being coerced by their husbands to breastfeed them.
“It appears to be a hugely coerced behaviour from the people we spoke to,” he said.
A research assistant on the project, Peter Rukundo, who is a senior lecturer at Kyambogo University, attributed the practice to beliefs by the men that breast milk could cure some diseases.
“There is a belief in some communities that breast milk has energising and curative powers, even curing diseases such as HIV and Aids and cancer,” he said.
“There is a gap in public awareness of the risks in such practices. But the challenge is we don’t have the evidence of the magnitude of this behaviour. We need a survey on prevalence.”
One of the men interviewed explained why he demands to be breastfed by his wife:
“It sustains me, I come home for lunch and it relieves stress in the middle of the working day,” he said, adding “She can’t say no because you become obsessed, it’s hard to stop. If women say no it can cause violence, it’s a big issue.”
The study also found that the women tend to be helpless and often yield to the men’s request out of fear of the unknown.
“I fear that my husband might go elsewhere if I wouldn’t let it happen,” one of the women was quoted as saying.
The trend has prompted health professionals, including midwives and nutritionists, in the country to call on the government to ban the practice as it poses health risk for babies who also suckle on the breasts.
“The fear for me, is the longer that this continues it will become part of the culture and tradition for the next generation. I see parallels with FGM,” Merritt said.
Meanwhile, the practice was said to have prompted the country’s minister of state for health, Sarah Opendi, to report the men to the country’s parliament two years ago.
“Men are part of the problem during breastfeeding. A mother is breastfeeding, you also want something on the other side, saying that it can cure HIV/AIDS, cancer, male dysfunction. It is a myth,” Opendi was quoted by New Vision to have told the parliament in August 2018.