The granny who breastfed her grandson

17 Apr, 2016 - 00:04 0 Views
The granny who breastfed her grandson Ambuya Maposhere breast-feeding her grandson, Rufaro, 17 years ago. (File picture)

The Sunday Mail

Sharon Kavhu recently in Zaka

Many say it is taboo for a woman to breastfeed another woman’s child, but Ambuya Clara Maposhere (86) defied the odds as she breastfed her grandson 17 years ago.

And she was 69!

Ambuya Maposhere with her daughter, Mrs Grace Chabuka-Maposhere, and grand-daughter Adonai Chabuka in Zaka last week

Ambuya Maposhere with her daughter, Mrs Grace Chabuka-Maposhere, and grand-daughter Adonai Chabuka in Zaka last week

The surrogate breast-feeding which happened in the community close to Ndanga Hospital, Zaka, in Masvingo is a rare case that triggers a lot of questions.

“His mother brought him to me while he was only four-months-old. She had an unplanned pregnancy while she was still doing her Bachelor of Education (Honours) degree at a university in Mutare, so after the birth of the baby boy, she only breastfed him for four months,” recalled Ambuya Maposhere last week, as she sat in her camping chair under a mango tree at her homestead.

At that time, Ambuya Maposhere was 69-years-old and she had just retired from nursing at Ndanga Hospital.

Rufaro, at five years old, just before he passed on

Rufaro, at five years old, just before he passed on

Her daughter, Mrs Grace Chabuka-Maposhere, had just had a son, Rufaro, whom she had to leave in the custody of his grandmother in Zaka while she concluded her remaining semesters at university.

Since the baby was still young and in need of breast milk, Ambuya Maposhere, Mrs Chabuka-Maposhere and other family members decided to allow Rufaro to be breastfed by his grandmother.

“I really wanted my daughter to finish her education without disturbances of baby-sitting. Therefore, it was my idea to breastfeed her son. The strong medical background I had, being a nurse for over four decades gave me confidence that if I take lagactil (chlorpromazine), I would be able to have milk production in my system,” narrated Ambuya Maposhere.

“So I went to Ndanga Hospital and got the pills. The pills are prescribed as a once-off dosage. After the dose, I tried breastfeeding Rufaro but the milk was not coming out. Initially I thought my old age was the reason why the stimulant was failing but in a space of two weeks, the milk started coming out,” added Ambuya Maposhere.

She said her breasts started getting bigger – “like how they looked like 26 years back I breastfed my last born, Grace”, she said with a chuckle.

“I weaned Rufaro when he was two-years-old and continued staying with him until he was four. The boy grew up thinking that I was his mother and yet I was only his grandmother. We had a strong bond and he could not believe that Grace was his biological mother,” said Ambuya Maposhere, before pulling out an album with photos of Rufaro breast-feeding.

Flipping the album, recalling the memories of her grandson, she said she – and her family – had kept the breastfeeding “taboo” a secret.


Eventually people in her community got to know about it and said a lot of things but she didn’t mind. She ignored the critics because she wanted the best for her grandson.

“Unfortunately, Rufaro started developing some sickness and he was in and out of hospital more often. During that time, doctors discovered that he was born HIV-positive. Eventually, the heavens took him and he left us in September 2003. He died when he was five.”

She said when her grandson died, she felt she was supposed to be the one to die because Rufaro was so adorable.

Her daughter, who had been listening all along, chipped in: “Rufaro died of HIV-related illness. However, for the first four years of his life, he lived healthily, getting breast milk for my mother and other supplements.

“He was a unique baby and everyone loved him. Rufaro started talking at 10 months before he even learnt how to walk. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to witness his first huge experiences in socialisation because I was at school, but, my mother did and I am forever grateful for her support.”

Grace said the case of her mother breastfeeding her son was not the first in her family. Her father, now late, was breastfed by his older sister.

“My aunt is always telling me how she breastfed my father at Mutambara Mission in Chimanimani while my grandmother was also raising my father’s twin brother in Chitimbi Village, a few kilometres from Mutambara. Back in the era of my grandmother, every time a woman gave birth to twins, one of them had to be killed,” explained Grace.

“My grandmother did not want to sacrifice either of her twins, and as such she gave my father to her first daughter, Aunt Matsvakireni Ngorima secretly. She begged the midwife not to disclose that she had given birth to twins. Therefore, my aunt had to travel by night with my father to Mutambara Mission.”

She said her father was breastfed for two years and a few months by Aunt Ngorima and even before his death, he told us that my aunt – his sister – was his first mother.

This surrogate breastfeeding was also kept a secret as a matter of life and death.

Ms Caroline Maposhere, Grace’s sister, said theirs was a united family that stood together.

“During the time when we made a decision to let Ambuya Maposhere breastfed Rufaro, we were not aware of his (Rufaro) status and if we had known it would not have been advisable. Considering that Ambuya Maposhere was in her late 60s, her immunity was not as active as a young person,” added Ms Maposhere, who used to be a mid-wife in the public sector and also partook in HIV and Aids research at the University of Zimbabwe in 1993.

“It could have been possible for her to receive the virus while breastfeeding, if Rufaro had bitten her nipples while suckling.”

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