By Asmau Ahmad
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that exclusive breastfeeding had prevented an estimated 10 million cases of childhood diarrhoea in Nigeria in recent times.
Mrs Philomena Irene, UNICEF’s Nutrition Specialist at its Bauchi Field Office, made the declaration in a paper she presented at a workshop to commemorate the 2023 World Breastfeeding Week.
Her paper was entitled: “Let’s talk breast milk: the life-preserving super food for babies.”
She said exclusive breastfeeding had saved about 103,742 children’s lives in Nigeria annually.
“Exclusive breastfeeding saved families the cost of baby formula of about N13.8 billion in a year as it also prevents the loss of N3.3 trillion a year in cognitive losses.
“It adds N54.6 billion to Nigeria’s economy each year as a result of increased productivity.
“It also helps to prepare Nigeria’s children for prosperous future as a result of higher intelligence which translates to improved performance in school and increased long-term earning potential,” she said.
According to her, breastfed children have at least six times greater chances of survival in the early months than non-breastfed children.
She added that an exclusively breastfed child is 14 times less likely to die in the first six months than a non-exclusively breastfed child.
“An estimated 13 per cent of child death could be averted if 90 per cent of mothers exclusively breastfeed their infants for the first six months of life. “Delaying breastfeeding by three hours to 23 hours after birth increases the risk of a baby dying in the first 28 days of life by 40 per cent,” Irene stressed.