BY PRUDENCE IJAH, ABUJA
The federal government has reinstated its resolve to ensure that exclusive breastfeeding is practiced by nursing mothers for the stipulated 6months for maximum growth of Babies, through the planned increase of maternity leave from 4months to 6months.
The minister of health, Professor Isaac Adewole said the ministry will collaborate with the Ministry of Labour and productivity to achieve the increase, adding that this will give mothers adequate time to practice Exclusive breastfeeding.
The minister made the disclosure at the flagg off and policy dialogue of the World breastfeeding week in Abuja.
He emphasized that returning to work before six months is a key barrier to exclusive breastfeeding .
“ Non adequate maternity protection policies prevent many women from having the time and space to breastfeed exclusively.The duration of maternity leave is too short ,and urgent steps must be taken to encourage lactating mothers”
Professor Adewole advised the men folk to allow women to breastfeed their babies and not compete with the babies.
According to the minister, only 17 percent of Nigerian babies are breastfed exclusively for the first six months.
”The rate of Exclusive breastfeeding have not substantially increased in the past two decades .
The country is offtrack in meeting the global target of increasing the rate of Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months to at least 50 percent by 2025”
In addition , the minister hinted that Exclusive breastfeeding has proven to boost economy, and contribute to better health outcomes for woben and children.
“Exclusive breastfeeding rate can avert 100,000 infants death annually in Nigeria, and add more than $150 million dollars to the Nigerian economy each year, according to the new Lancet Breastfeeding series”
The UNICEF Nigeria deputy country representative , Pernille Ironside noted that the best investment is to engage in progammes that will support Exclusive breast feeding .
She stressed the need for women to be equipped and supported while breastfeeding their babies, either in the homefront or in their place of work.
“I am speaking not just as UNICEF official , but also as a breastfeeding mother , who wants the best for my baby. We need to encourage the mothers by saving the lives of the mothers and the children”
“We will ensure that all reproductive women of childbearing age will support their children by breastfeeding for a period of two years”
The head of Nutrition, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Chris Isokpunwu noted that a large number of mothers do not practice Exclusive breastfeeding .
According to him, Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life is practiced without water, infant formular ,or any other liquid.
“Giving infants water before the age of six months reduces breastmilk intake and supply .It hinders absorption of nutrients from breast milk, and increases the risk of of illness from contaminated water and feeding bottle”