As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to celebrate the 2019 World Breastfeeding Week, an awareness campaign annually celebrated throughout the first week of August, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have called on governments and all employers to adopt family-friendly policies that support breastfeeding.
In line with the theme of this year’s breastfeeding week “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding”, the two leading world health bodies, in a statement signed by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general; and Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director have tasked their members and the world at large to embrace breastfeeding as a universal solution that provides a good start for every child in life and improves the health of women and children.
Explaining the meaning of family-friendly policies, the statement said it is a paid parental leave that enables mothers to breastfeed, thereby nurturing and bonding with their children in early life, when it matters most.
It added that there is sufficient evidence to prove that during early childhood, the optimal nutrition provided by breastfeeding, along with nurturing care and stimulation, can strengthen children’s brain development with impacts that endure over a lifetime.
According to the statement, optimal breastfeeding practices include early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary feeding for up to two years and beyond.
The organisations also emphasised the need for improved breastfeeding, counselling and gsupport for women in health facilities and the community, and an end to the promotion of breast-milk substitutes to enable parents to make informed decisions on the best way to feed their infants
“Breastfeeding gives children the best possible start in life. We must urgently scale up support to mothers – be it from family members, healthcare workers, employers and governments, so they can give their children the start they deserve,” the statement said.
In a related development, Mrs Mojisola Adejo, a nurse at Mende Health Clinic, Maryland, while speaking in an interview with Pharmanews, said breast milk is the best and most economical food for any baby, adding that it provides the best nutrition and protection from illness for the baby.
Adejo, a breastfeeding mother added that, while breast milk is all that is needed for the first six months of a child’s life, mothers should continue to breastfeed their children after six months and in addition to this, they can give complementary food such as food from local family diet.
Also, Mr Muhammad Ado, CEO of National Primary Health Care Development Agency, noted that breastfeeding is one of the keys to reducing under-five mortality, adding that it saves more lives and is cost-effective.
Ado further stated that according to his research, breast milk helps to prevent pneumonia and diarrhoea, two of the leading causes of death for children under five.
“Babies who are breastfed are 14 times less likely to die than those who are not fed breast milk,” he said.