Parents love their babies and want to see the newborn grow as is expected. Thank God for the campaign of exclusive breastfeeding of children for up to six months which has made many mothers to at least wait and push up to 4 months before introducing regular foods. According to the Child Rights Act, every child has a right to adequate nutrition however feeding should not constitute a danger to a child.
In developing countries and in Nigeria where I come from, it is the practice to try to force food down food especially pap (corn or cereal pudding) or any other liquid meal down the throat of a baby who is perceived to have a low appetite. It is done in the bid to ensure that the child is not starving and gets the required nutrient for his/her development. This is a good intention but the act of force-feeding has led to fatal incidences where food enters into the trachea/lungs and air flow is blocked. Such a baby begins to choke and gasp for breath if he/she does not get quick medical attention; it has led to the death of such an infant.
A case in point, my sister-in-law on the 2nd of May 2019, dropped her baby at the crèche of the school where she worked as a teacher as usual and looked forward to seeing her little girl later in the day but it was not to be so. A distress call came too late after the nanny at the school crèche had forced fed little, Mojolajesu, my sister-in-law’s 10 months old baby. I was at working when I got the news that the baby had been rushed on emergency to two different hospitals. Mojolajesu did not make it. The doctors diagnosed the cause of death to be as a result of food getting into her trachea. Her parents were devastated; we are all very broken hearted.
And so here I am writing this post and possibly championing a little campaign both on the traditional and social media urging everyone and disabusing minds about the practice of force-feeding babies. Since this personal incidence with my Mojolajesu, I have heard countless stories of babies who choked and almost died while been force-fed and some others were not so lucky. Also in this month of May 2019, a nanny was sentenced to 15years jail time because she force-fed a baby who also died.
How Force-feeding is done
If you are not familiar with what this practice means and how it is done, let me try to paint a picture. When a grandma, nanny or anyone wants to force feed a baby, he/she will be held tightly and closely to control any struggle or resistance from the child.
Next, a hand will be cupped around the baby/child’s mouth then his or her nose will be blocked with a finger or so to prevent the liquid from getting into the nostrils and force the baby to breathe through the mouth. After that, the pap or cereal pudding will be poured into the cupped hand as the baby’s mouth is forced to be opened. I have watched scenes like this while growing up; it is not a pleasant sight. Such a baby will be crying and fighting to get free and the food will be sliding down his or her throat as the baby struggles and gasp for air. THIS SHOULD NOT BE! IT IS AN ABUSE AND MUST STOP!
Some children naturally have a good appetite and eat well, however, it is not so with some other children. The first daughter of my sister fell into this category; as a growing child, she didn’t eat much and her mum and dad were so worried. So this little girl only wanted to take tea and biscuits, therefore, she was thin. Loads of advice came in from other mothers, friends and the older ones on steps to take to ensure that my niece improves on her eating habit. Vitamins to boost her appetite were also used but this little girl won’t just budge. My niece would refuse any other food or take the barest minimum. Now she is older and the other day I visited their home and my ears were filled with a gist about how she now has a big appetite for food! It was sure nice to see this change in her. One thing I appreciated about my sister was that she did not allow anyone to bully or force her baby to eat. She would pet her little girl and go the extra mile to prepare different meals, testing which ones her daughter took a liking to. All that entire time the little girl only needed someone to be patient with her and soon her eating habits changed.
Think of it this way, would you as an adult want someone to force food down your throat just because you do not have the appetite for food at a certain time? I am sure it is a firm NO…NO for you. So then we should not force food down the throat of our babies, children no matter how good the intentions are. It is harmful and dangerous!
As a Mother ensure the safety of your baby/child. Do not allow anyone to force feed him or her!
A pediatrician Ms. Okietmute Olibamoyo from the College of Medicine, Lagos University in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) advised mothers to stop the habit of force-feeding their babies to avoid accidental suffocation. She advised mothers to change their pattern of preparing their baby/child’s food if the baby is not eating well.
Adebisi Adetunji (C) Broadcast Journalist, Media content provider, Trainer & consultant-@debisibusybeemedia, Behavioral Change Radio Drama, Communication4Development, Social Media Influencer, Controller Programs (FRCN) Founder Beehyve Empowerment and Development Initiative. Catch me on Twitter – @DebisiBusybee, Facebook & email – firstname.lastname@example.org