The Federal Government says provision of mother’s breast milk to infants within one hour of birth will reduce perinatal and infant morbidity and mortality.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, stated this in Abuja on Monday during briefing in commemoration of the 2021 World Breastfeeding Week.
Ehanire, who was represented by Dr Salma Anas-Kolo, Director, Family Health Department in the ministry, said that exclusive breastfeeding reduces childhood killer diseases such as diarrhoea and pneumonia.
“The ministry seizes this opportunity to recommend once again, early initiation of breastfeeding within the first one hour of birth,’’ he said.
The minister said that the long term health benefits of breastfeeding include reduced risk of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence.
“Continues breastfeeding with consumption of adequate diverse and nutrient rich complementary foods till two years of age and beyond prevents stunting.
“Breastfeeding provides enormous benefits to mothers such as prevention of postpartum bleeding, reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers and child spacing,” Ehanire said.
He said that a World Health Organisation report indicates that scaling up breastfeeding practice could prevent an estimated 823,000 annual deaths or 13 per cent of all deaths of children younger than 24 months.
Ehanire said that breastfeeding was the smartest investment for child survival, growth and development with the health and wellbeing of the mother.
According to him, the National Demographic and Health Survey 2018 note Nigeria’s breastfeeding indices within one hour of birth are still below optimal or 42 per cent.
“The report says that 29 per cent of children zero to six months are exclusively breastfed and 97 per cent of children are breastfed at one point or the other,” he said.
Ehanire said that the ministry was committed to support, protect and promote breastfeeding as a veritable means toward eradication of malnutrition in all forms.
According to him, the “Baby Friendly Initiative’’ process has been completed and the document launched to help improve the country’s breastfeeding indices and reduce malnutrition in the country.
The WHO Representative, Dr Walter Kazadi, said that globally, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding for infants under six months of age is 40 per cent.
Kazadi, represented by Dr Joy Ufere, Technical Officer said that in Africa, nearly 70 per cent of countries have high rates of continued breastfeeding at one year, compared to 28 per cent in Nigeria.
“Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth followed by exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond offer a defence against all forms of child malnutrition, including wasting and obesity.”
He noted that while there has been progress in breastfeeding rates in the last four decades with a 50 per cent increase in the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fragility of the gains.
Kazadi said that the 2021 World Breastfeeding Week was a time to revisit the commitments to prioritising breastfeeding-friendly environments for mothers and babies.
“Expectant and nursing mothers require special attention. They need to be supported to maintain their jobs during these stages for motherhood.
“There is a need to further demonstrate commitments and shared responsibility towards improvement by all stakeholders, Government, donors, civil society groups and private sectors.
“To also increase funding to reach the 2025 World Health Assembly Target to raise the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months to at least 50 per cent,’’ he said.
Kazadi, however, called for the implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast milk Substitutes by government, health workers and industry.
According to him, there is the need to implement the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding in maternity facilities.
He called for the creation of monitoring systems that track the progress of policies, programmes, and funds toward achieving both national and global breastfeeding targets.(NAN)