Nigerian Government through the Ministry of Health has flagged off World Breastfeeding Week to raise awareness to mothers on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months. The knowledge about exclusive breastfeeding is low in Nigeria, only 25% of mothers know that new-born babies should be given only breastmilk in the first six months of life.
Many mothers and family members believed that breastfeeding alone was not sufficient for babies and that babies need additional food or water. In some places relatives add extra things such as honey, glucose, or herbs to baby’s diet.
Flagging off the event, on Tuesday 1st August 2017, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who was represented by the Director Family Health, Dr. Adebimpe Adebiyi, said that breastfeeding has been proven to be cost effective method of feeding infant and young children. it is one of the effective strategies to combat malnutrition and other related conditions that contribute to infant and young child morbidity and mortality.
“The benefits of unrestricted exclusive breastfeeding practice as initiated within an hour from birth results in ample milk production to sustain the infant (except for medical conditions) lead to 87 % preventable deaths in infants younger than 6 months. It reduces infant mortality associated with common childhood illnesses like diarrhea or pneumonia and ensure quick recovery from illnesses”.
The Minister further explained that mothers also benefits maximally in child spacing, reduction of breast cancers and ensuring recovery of maternal weight loss after birth.
In her remarks, the Wife of the President Mrs. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by Senior Special Assistant to the President, Hajiya Hajo Sani, said that the launch of Breastfeeding Advocacy Initiative in Nigeria was part of the commitment to work with other stakeholders to improve breastfeeding in Nigeria.
She advocated for policies that would encourage mothers to do exclusive breastfeeding. “I called on employers in Nigeria to create an enabling environment for breastfeeding mothers through the provision of daycare centre, breastfeeding room in the work places”.
“I will continue to sensitize women through my Future Assured Programme, the benefits of breast feeding”, she added.
Also speaking, the Country Director, UNICEF, represented by the Chief of Nutrition Dr. Stanly Nanama said that UNICEF has been partnering with Federal Ministry of Health to improve nutrition and breastfeeding.
He said that UNICEF has provided technical and financial support in capacity building on provision of appropriate infant and young child feeding practices including the development and production of mass communication materials such as radio and jingles in English, Hausa, Arabic pidgin and Yoruba languages