Nigeria is set to observe this year’s World Breastfeeding Week from August 1st to 7th, 2023, in alignment with the global campaign that seeks to raise awareness about the health and well-being benefits of breastfeeding for infants, young children, mothers, families, and society at large.
According to the National Food and Nutrition Median Team (NFNMT), only 29% of infants under the age of 6 months in Nigeria are exclusively breastfed, and just 42% are breastfed within the first hour of birth. In light of this, the team calls on all citizens to support and enable breastfeeding, particularly for working parents.
The theme for this year’s World Breastfeeding Week is “Enable Breastfeeding, Making a Difference for Working Parents,” with a specific focus on breastfeeding and employment. The aim is to increase awareness and support for breastfeeding in work environments.
To combat malnutrition, including stunting, it is recommended that nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions reach at least 80% of the target population.
Various challenges have been identified as hindering breastfeeding in Nigeria, including lack of knowledge about the benefits of breast milk, myths surrounding breastfeeding, early return to work after childbirth, inadequate breastfeeding-friendly environments for working mothers, and aggressive marketing of breastmilk substitutes.
The Federal Ministry of Health encourages early initiation of breastfeeding within an hour of birth, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, continued breastfeeding up to two years or more, with the introduction of appropriate complementary foods starting from six months.
To support working mothers, conducive workplaces that encourage breastfeeding are essential to ensure their productivity while fulfilling their nurturing role. In the federal civil service, women are entitled to 16 weeks of paid maternity leave and have two hours off daily for breastfeeding until the child reaches 6 months. The recent extension of 14 days of paternity leave for men in the Civil Service aims to further support families.
Breastfeeding is not only vital for the child’s nutrition but also helps build their immunity, protecting them from common diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia. Additionally, breastfeeding fosters emotional and social development through the bonding between mother and child.
The public is reminded that breast milk is the ideal food for infants, offering numerous advantages, including its accessibility, affordability, safety, and protection against childhood illnesses. Supporting breastfeeding everywhere contributes to the nation’s health, economy, and future workforce.
In conclusion, breastfeeding is a crucial practice that deserves support from fathers, family members, and society as a whole, for the benefit of both mother and child.