A study by a local publication said to have been conducted in Kenya and Uganda has revealed the obsession that men have with breast milk.
The study has depicted that men drinking their partner’s breast milk is not an uncommon act, as it is practiced in different parts of both Kenya and Uganda despite having various impacts.
Furthermore, in some Districts in Uganda, the obsession has been socially accepted and linked to a way of sexual intimacy and a display of affection.
Jane, a 20-year-old Ugandan, who is a mother to a six-month-old says that her husband enjoys the breastmilk claiming that it helps him relieve stress as well as has health benefits.
For instance, Jane recounts that her husband began his obsession immediately she came back home from the hospital after delivery, and did not shy away from asking for it.
According to Jane, the husband taking breast milk aided in its flow and ideally felt okay.
“He says he likes the taste of it, and that it helps him in terms of his health. He feels good afterward,” said Jane.
However, concerns have been raised against the obsession that has also crept into some parts of Tanzania, linking it to Gender Violence, coerciveness and impacts on babies’ nutrition.
For instance, in 2018, the Uganda Minister of State for Health documented the problem in parliament and warned against it citing that it held threats to mothers and babies.
“A growing culture of men demanding to suckle, which was becoming a problem for some breastfeeding mothers and their babies,” the minister is quoted by the publication.
Following the documentation, a preliminary study was established into the phenomenon by Kyambogo University in Kampala and Britain’s University of Kent, which were supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund.
Several anonymous interviews were conducted from the study, among them four Boda Boda riders who were questioned in regards to the practice.
The results revealed that although it is not a culture practiced by all men, it is very common as at least there are stories of men who enjoy the act claiming that it relieves stress and ideally makes them feel nurtured and cared for like babies.
According to the study, the men who are obsessed with the practice prefer to do it before the babies are fed, with some men as much as three times a day.
“I know other men do it, but we’ve never talked about it. So that to me would suggest that it is a common behavior,” said Merritt.
Another added, “When breastfeeding, I feel like I’m being looked after like a child, and this becomes addictive. I feel like a prince.”
Some of the concerns raised against the practice from the study include gender violence where the men feel entitled while the women are coerced on the ground that their men would go looking for it somewhere else.
Ideally, the men entitlement comes in such a form that drunkards abuse their wives when they fail to give them breast milk through beatings and the intense suckling makes the nipples swell or infected.
Babies, on the other hand, get malnourished since the milk is exhausted and in turn, they are fed formula foods before their weaning time.
The babies suckling the same nipple with the father also pose threats of infections to the baby and is riskier healthwise.
For instance, health professionals including midwives and nutritionists are against the practise stating that despite enough evidence to prove the same as it is done in private, it needs to be condemned.
“There is a gap in public awareness of the risks in such practices. But the challenge is we don’t have the evidence of the magnitude of this behavior. We need a survey on prevalence,” said Peter Rukundo, a senior lecturer at Kyambogo University who assisted with the research.
In an attempt to stop the practice from spreading, the research has recommended people to speak up, as silence only normalizes it and makes it a part of the culture.