MOTHER FEEDS CHILD. [PHOTO: COURTESY]
As a first time mother in 2015, Janet Otieno-Prosper like most beginners struggled to get breastfeeding right.
“I had a preterm baby and could not get the right information on how to breastfeed him adequately and tackle the challenges during breastfeeding,” she said.
Elsewhere, happilyevermom.com blogged about her own challenging experience, writing that, “Every time I tried to nurse my newborn daughter, she flew off my breast screaming. I not only remember feeling like a failure but I also remember feeling overwhelmed and alone.”
They are not alone. Many moms all over endure these frustrating moments, possibly due to lack of adequate preparation for breastfeeding; resulting in unexpected difficulties.
Truth is, most mothers struggle to nurse their children and are not even aware of the numerous benefits in breast milk.
Lactation experts say that even though breastfeeding is natural, it is not always automatic. As a matter of fact, only 13 per cent manage the recommended six-month exclusive breastfeeding. Yet, breastfeeding has been recognized as the optimal food for infants and young children with World Health Organization recommending it as the best way to give children a great start to life.
According to a team of researchers from the UC Davis Medical Center, moms who have trouble with breastfeeding in the first week with a new baby are the ones most likely to give up.
That said, Janet, an award-winning and experienced journalist in Early Childhood Health and Development used her personal unpleasant lactating experience in 2015, as a springboard to assist struggling mothers.
That same year she started working on a long term plan which entailed creating an information hub for mothers, fathers, doctors to easily engage, share experiences, seek moral support and get professional assistance.
“I wanted to share my experiences of circumstances which actually mirrors what other mothers were going through and see if together we could come up with solutions,” she told Woman Kenya Network. “It was in the same year that I even came up with a rough draft about the app but then pushed the idea to the back of my mind.”
But after a yearlong International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) Fellowship focusing on Early Childhood Health and Development, Janet embarked on researching, documenting, talking to mothers and lactation experts to find out more on breastfeeding.
“But I was convinced that breastfeeding struggles should not just live on pages of newspapers as they were not enough to tackle breastfeeding issues that mothers had to deal with,” she said.
Attending the 71st World Health Assembly in Geneva where breastfeeding was a topical issue gave this dream a new lease of life.
“I felt in my own small way that I should make a difference,” Janet told Woman Kenya Network. “As a mother, I wanted to come up with a solution to other struggling mums and not just make them ordinary characters in my stories.”
In November 2020, a bilingual parenting Nyonyesha App was birthed on Google Play Store, and is currently ranked number five few days upon going live. Nyonyesha is Swahili word for breastfeeding and supports both English and Kiswahili speakers.
The founder explains that the few days old mobile parenting app brings breastfeeding information at your fingertips as long as you have a smartphone and mobile data.
“Breastfeeding mothers and expectant mums will find support at every stage of their journey by getting all the relevant information. And the app goes beyond breastfeeding to offer nutritional, parenting and overall wellbeing advice for both mothers and newborns,” she said. “The app makes breastfeeding information feel sociable by acting as a support group for breastfeeding mothers as it allows them to ask questions and engage in discussions/feedback forums.”
Users will benefit from features, analysis, opinion, handy tips, instant short videos, pictorials, cartoons and audio based stories.The target is first time mothers, breastfeeding mothers, expectant mothers, fathers and parents. Meanwhile, doctors can register and post important health information on breastfeeding and child care on the app.
According to the Founder of Nyonyesha App, fathers and partners should be actively involved in parenting because breastfeeding journey is physically and emotionally demanding and, “Mothers need all the support from their partners to encourage them when it gets stressful.”
Besides, she adds, “Fathers who are involved in the breastfeeding journey by encouraging their partners create a big difference in the wellness of his child.”
Others who may find the app valuable are, “Journalists focusing on Early Childhood Development and Health.”
According to Janet, about 820,000 child deaths could be prevented annually (about 13 per cent of all under-five child deaths) by improving breastfeeding rates.
“This means breastfeeding is the perfect and unique intervention in maternal and child mortality to create a healthier society. Hence our vision which is: Breastfeed Today for a Healthier Tomorrow,” she told Woman Kenya Network.
Meet the Founder of Nyonyesha App: Janet Otieno-Prosper
Janet Otieno-Prosper (pictured) is an award-winning journalist with over ten years’ experience in print and digital media.
She holds a Master of Arts degree in Communication Studies from The University of Nairobi. She is the founder of Nyonyesha App and African Ringer Newsletter.
She was until April,2020 the Features Editor of The Citizen, Tanzania’s leading English publication. Janet previously worked at Nation Media Group’s Digital and Africa desk in Nairobi as an editor in charge of the Southern Africa region.
She also worked as the editor of African Executive Magazine and sub-editor with Kenya Times. She is passionate about the health of women and children. Janet was honoured by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations for her articles on food security in Africa there by bagging World Food Day Media Award.
Janet is International Centre For Journalism (ICFJ) Fellow, Women in News Fellow and PesaCheck Fellow.
She is presently undertaking the Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Program at Craig Newman Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.
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