• New mothers are hosted in a separate ward from the prison population where they can breastfeed exclusively and bond with their babies.
• However, Clean Start said, they breastfeed exclusively for three months before they return to the general ward.
New mothers behind bars face numerous challenges in breastfeeding their babies.
This is according to a study by Clean Start Kenya, an organisation working to give formerly incarcerated women and their children a second chance.
Clean Start’s study said the Kenya Prisons Service's inadequacies contribute to new mothers and their babies’ hardship.
“Kenyan prisons face a myriad of challenges insufficient funds to provide clothing, medication, food and bedding, according to a recent study by the Africa Early Childhood Network (AfECN),” they said.
“Additionally, prison meals lack adequate nutritional value for exclusive breastfeeding until a child turns one year old, yet nutritionists encourage mothers to feed on a balanced diet,” they said.
While in prison, new mothers are hosted in a separate ward from the prison population where they can breastfeed exclusively and bond with their babies.
However, Clean Start said, they breastfeed exclusively for three months before they return to the general ward.
“From there, the babies begin to be weaned with food from the prison as well as from donors and well-wishers. Babies who are not breastfed depend on infant formula,” they said.
According to the Ministry of Health, malnutrition contributes to 45 per cent of all deaths of children under five years.
Poor breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices, the Ministry of Health adds, contribute to 19 per cent of the deaths.
A majority of children in prison are aged zero to four years.
Once they reach four and above, Kenya Prisons Service allows them to be integrated back into the community away from prison life.
Besides providing meals, the study recommends nurturing care for early childhood development interventions in female penal institutions for safe spaces for children.
“Meals provided should be as per the ministerial guidelines on nutrition, including feeding children at least three meals every day, and two snacks for older children to avoid stunting,” they said.