Exclusive breastfeeding: The story of Maryam “Nono Zalla”

Maryam Aminu is the product of exclusive breastfeeding practiced by her mother in Nahalo Village of Ningi local government area of Bauchi State

Five months old Maryam Aminu is the product of exclusive breastfeeding practiced by her mother in Nahalo Village of Ningi local government area of Bauchi State, one of the communities benefiting from Global Affairs Canada’s funded Livelihoods and Nutrition Empowerment project (LINE).

“Breastfeeding lowers baby's risk of having asthma or allergies. Also, babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, without any other feeds, have fewer infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea.”
Lantana Aminu

At just five months old, little Maryam sits comfortably on a rubber mat without any support or helping hands from her mother.

Clad in red veil called Hijab in local Hausa language, her attention was raptly on the black camera dangling in front of her while the photographer tries to give her a shot.

Five months old Maryam Aminu is the product of exclusive breastfeeding practiced by her mother in Nahalo Village of Ningi local government area of Bauchi State, one of the communities benefiting from Global Affairs Canada’s funded Livelihoods and Nutrition Empowerment project (LINE).

Maryam is the sixth child of her mother, Lantana Aminu, 37years from one of the households selected to benefit from the LINE project intervention. Of all the six children delivered by Lantana, Maryam is the only one being exclusively breastfed-courtesy of a sensitization training conducted for her mother and the other beneficiaries on exclusive breastfeeding as well as infant and young child feeding practice.

“When the sensitization was conducted I was heavily pregnant. I said to myself that I am going to give this new idea a trial” says 37 year old Lantana.

Little Maryam is now best known in the community as “Maryam Nono Zalla”-implying that she is being breastfed exclusively, a practice uncommon in the village before the LINE project intervention. Up until then, mothers in Nahalo were not exclusively breastfeeding their babies because they had a belief that the breast milk was not sufficient for the baby, and that their baby will need water to satisfy thirst.  They usually supplement breast milk with water and other watery gruels from maize, millet, or sorghum.

Not only did Maryam look healthy, but is now a role model that is being used by her mother to spread the new idea of exclusive breastfeeding among pregnant and nursing mothers in the community.

Lantana recounts that “One thing is clear, I have learned breast milk contains antibodies that help baby fight off diseases. Maryam has not experience any frequent cases of diarrhea and pneumonia as is the case with the other children who were not on this practice. And as you can see her body is without those rashes that disturb our children here”. Lantana learnt from the sensitization meetings the benefits of exclusively breastfeeding. Lantana concluded saying: “Breastfeeding lowers baby's risk of having asthma or allergies. Also, babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, without any other feeds, have fewer infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea.”

Maryam’s story can be related to some other children in the community whose mothers embraced the exclusively breastfeeding practice like four months old Sadiya Rabilu. Sadiya appears very much alert to any movement around her. Sadiya’s house has now become a center where women from Nahalo village come to make inquiries about the exclusive breastfeeding practice and other issues on nutrition and best infants feeding practices.

Lantana (Maryam’ mother) and Suwaida both belong to the cooperative group supported by LINE project- home arise farmers association. The cooperative meets in Suwaida’s house where

they share acquired knowledge during the nutrition sensitization meetings and other trainings delivered by the LINE project. In addition, they are both very active as peer educators for the women in Nahalo village. During different functions in the village such as naming ceremonies, weddings and festivals, they share their experiences, particularly on exclusive breastfeeding, and provide support to the women from their village as well as neighboring villages.