Men in Uganda Compete for Breast Milk with Babies

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It started as a rumor a few years ago, but it’s very real. Men from certain parts of Uganda compete for breast milk with babies. Uganda’s Minister of Health, Sarah Opendi, brought up this issue in parliament. Later, research institutions started doing in-depth research to confirm these allegations. Examples of these institutions are Britain’s University of Kent and the Kyambogo University in Kampala.

Research

Initially, people believed that its women who offered to breast their husbands instead of their babies. The results of the study were devastating. A lot of children in some parts of Uganda are malnourished because grown men suckle most of the milk. And the women don’t seem to have a choice in the matter.

The research involved surveys in Buikwe district, where this occurrence is common.  Their identities were kept anonymous, and surprisingly, several men were willing to talk.  They think that this milk can cure impotence, HIV and AIDS, and even Throat Cancer. Others said that it helps them relax and gives them the energy to work during the day.

A new form of Gender violence

Sucking of the breasts is understandable to initiate sex and show affection. But these men are doing it for the wrong reasons. Others want to be taken care of like children, or like princes. What’s worse is that it’s a new form of gender violence. Some women are afraid that he would look for another woman; others are afraid of being physically assaulted.

In Amuria District, women are always reporting how aggressive their husbands become when they need breast milk. This practice is also shaking the marriage union since most women are even seeking to divorce their husbands. This seems to be the only way to protect their babies from malnutrition. The demand for breast milk is quite high. The women at risk are those who are 2-3 months into breastfeeding. Men force their wives to breastfeed them at night, a time that they should be breastfeeding their children.  Even the single men, or men who do not have lactating wives, are hunting for breastfeeding women in market places. They lure them with alcohol and breastfeed from these women when they’re drunk.

Effects of this habit

Breast milk is essential in the growth of a baby. However, men in Uganda have no choice but to give their children formulae milk. Children in these parts of Uganda risk having poorly developed brains and having weak immune systems. What’s worse is that this behavior exposes the babies to infections. Most men don’t brush their teeth, and these germs end up causing diarrhea in these babies. Some men suckle too hard that they don’t realize they are hurting the women’s nipples. When a baby sucks to his fill, the mother might even feel dizzy. Now imagine a grown man clinging to that breast for more than an hour daily.

Final thoughts

Most men didn’t seem to realize how detrimental their habits are. This calls for comprehensive public awareness campaigns. The men and women in the affected regions need education about the effects of this habit. The belief that this breast milk is curative and energizing should also be clarified. The Government, Private sectors, and all the stakeholders should come up with measures to stop this behavior. All the Minister did was let the whole world know that it’s happening.

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