“Age is not a guarantee for good parenting” Maurine Exhaled. Maurine Akiabom is a 27-year-old student who had always desired to have a child. Her dream became reality when she got pregnant and gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Jamel, as she named her handsome son, weighed 3.5kg at birth. She was told this was a good weight for a first child. Despite Maurine’s love for a child, she was not prepared in terms of knowledge and skills to raise a healthy baby.
Coupled to that, her companion had lost his job and had to leave her all alone with their two weeks old son to search for a job in an increasingly difficult economy. Without a son, they were hardly able to make ends meet but could juggle around as best they could to live one day at a time. With their son in hand, they understood that a sustainable source of income was necessary, yet not forthcoming. Maurine was barely able to afford two meager meals per day.
Without any warning sign, her calm, smiley, well behaved son started to cry uncontrollably every day. She couldn’t understand why as she breastfed him every time he expressed the desire. It seemed as if he became more frustrated each time he breastfed and cried harder. Maurine was so confused and the only thing she could do was to join her son in crying until they both fall asleep, exhausted after long cry sessions. She wondered whether it could be that Jamel was not having his fill after breastfeeding. She shoved the idea aside as she convinced herself that her son was feeding well. This only got worse and at one month, she noticed that his weight was decreasing. The weight loss increased so much so that at five months, he was only weighing five kilograms. By this time his cries had become so faint they were almost inaudible.
One day, Jamel developed a really high temperature; it was as if his entire body was on fire. His mother took him to a hospital. While there, they were sent to the Mother and Child Centre and after taking his weight, he was referred for proper consultation. The Screener prescribed some tests and told her that from the results, her son was ok. However, the Screener referred her to a Nutrition Counselor. A couple of days later after she left the hospital and was back home, she noticed that her son’s weight continued to melt down. He had stopped crying probably because he didn’t have the strength any longer.
After her son finished the few drugs that were prescribed, he started running a very high temperature again. This time, Maurine took the wise decision to consult at a different health institution. She went to a facility where she could meet a Pediatrician. While there, it was confirmed that though her son’s weight was very low, he was otherwise fine. However, when she got home on that day, her son lost consciousness; his eyes were turned upward and he was motionless. They rushed him to the hospital and he was admitted.
It was then that she was told that her son was severely malnourished and one of the reasons they advanced was that she was not producing enough breast milk for her son. This was strange because her companion had found a job and she was feeding well and was producing good quantities of milk. In fact, she had to pad herself whenever she went out to avoid her clothes being soaked with breastmilk. After trying to sort out to no avail the reason why her milk wasn’t giving her son the required nutrients, they supplemented her son’s feeding with artificial milk. She was immediately referred to a nutrition counselor whose advice she followed strictly. Today at age six months, Jamel weighs 8.2kg – a normal weight for his age.
By Vivian Maku