EXPOSED: Kenyan village where men fight for breast milk with newborns
Public health officials in Kakamega county have raised the red flag over a long standing custom in a village that has left newborns malnourished.
The weird custom in Butere sub-county sees men competing with newborns for breast milk. Mothers feed their babies on one breast and spare the other one for their husbands.
Health officials are worried that the reduced amount of breast milk available to the newborns is now a cause of malnutrition and diseases to the young ones.
However, a section of men interviewed on the custom told Nairobi News that their main reason for suckling has nothing to do with breast milk, but is a way of getting rid of curses cast on their wives and children.
In addition, the men, who did not wish to be identified for fear of reprisal by their villagemates for exposing the secret custom, said they suckle their wives as a way of keeping the flames of romance burning after childbirth.
One of the men who is 57 years and a father of five said the custom is longstanding and elders have always ensured it is passed to the younger generation.
Great caution is taken to ensure the newborn does not suckle the breast reserved for its father.
“The mother must be very keen because if the baby suckles the breast reserved for its father then it will die and it will be a curse to that family,” he explained.
Health officials in the area attribute the custom to the deteriorating health of newborns in the area.
In September 2014, Butere sub-county public health officer Mr Oliver Walutila started a campaign to end the custom in the area.
Dr Donald Musi, who is in charge of Yatta Plateau medical center said he is not particularly surprised to hear of such a custom.
“I think there is just a lot of curiosity in men. They want to find out what it tastes like… husband breastfeeding can be as much about curiosity than utility,” said Dr Musi.
A section of women in the village support the custom and deny assertions by doctors that it leads to poor health of newborns.
But, 82 year-old Mzee Waziri Mohammed cautions against men breastfeeding on the breasts of their wives.
“When a man sucks the breast of his wife who is lactating, the child should not breastfeed on the same breast. This child will die. Our Luhya cultural practices don’t allow this,” says Mzee Waziri.
He added: “It sounds like a man sharing the private parts of his wife with their baby. This baby is destined to get doomed.”