By Ndidi Chukwu
Chinwe Agada is able to conclude a six month exclusive breastfeeding for her son, Mathew. She learnt it is the best way to stay out of hospitals with a sick child during her antenatal visits when she was pregnant. She made the decision to try it and the result is a beautiful healthy child.
Exclusive Breastfeeding was relatively convenient for her in the first three months of delivery when she had her three months maternity leave running. She had to plan for the remaining three months, shuttling between her work place and a nearby crèche to breast feed every two hours.
“My office is a private company, there is no crèche available to the nursing mothers in the office, what we do is register in a nearby crèche in the Central District of Abuja. Though too expensive, almost half of my salary, giving my child the whole six month breast milk is what i made up my mind to do,
“It was difficult at a point, at four months I was tempted to stop and leave the baby with my mother who is still in my house helping me with the baby but anytime i look at that baby the bond between us won’t let me. I felt the moment I leave him I will be exposing him to danger” Chinwe narrates.
Her absence in her place of work could create a huge vacuum, from her response she seems too good a staff to do away with, but the employer could spare 45 minutes out of every three hours for her to attend to her baby and then return to work.
“Anytime I’m able to complete this in a day i return home fulfilled, my job is done, my baby is satisfied and I look forward to a new day. The second phase of the three months on exclusive breastfeeding totally redefined me, I was almost losing focus on my job, i was at the verge of losing the job, i remember the day my boss told me to honourably resign that he doesn’t want to fire me, at the end of the day, we resolved the issues”
Back home, she returns to face the domestic chores, she does the dishes prepares dinner, bath her baby before her husband returns home. Very few men in this situation know when to be helpful to their wives, “if my husband is at home before me he does the dishes and cleans the house, he can stay with Matthew while i do the chores, but at night I’m totally alone, he sleeps and even snores while i wake up to breastfeed him every two hours” she laughs.
“i did not regret breastfeeding exclusively because at the end i have a very sweet baby, he doesn’t disturb, we have never been to the hospital because of his health, his temperature only rises when he is teething and it is not always a bad one that could make me panic, my greatest joy is that there is this bond this has created between me and the child”
Chinwe is able to complete this six months for Mathew and is willing to do the same for her next child, but she is only 1 out every 8 working mothers that will complete six months exclusive breastfeeding. 2013 Demographic Health Survey says 98% of children in Nigeria are breastfed at sometime, but only 17 percent of children are exclusively breastfed. This result makes Nigeria one of the poorest exclusive breastfeeding rates in Africa.
Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health Mr. Linus Awute, in this year’s annual reawakening commitment to Breastfeeding said the year’s theme, “Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s make it work” is a reminder that working mothers and all mothers in Nigeria should be supported to combine breastfeeding with work whether in the formal, informal or home setting.
Awute said every nursing mother should be empowered to hers and her baby’s right to breastfeed, and urged all workplaces in Nigeria to open a crèche or breastfeeding rooms for children, to enable women live their full potential at their work places and also raise healthy children. “This is the only way we can reduce under-five mortality in Nigeria, and eliminate malnutrition amongst children”
Babies have specific nutritional needs and are born with an undeveloped immune system. Infants and young children therefore need food that meets these demands. Breast milk according to Health Experts remains the best food for infants, as it provides both nutrients and immune support, which contribute to optimal survival, growth, and development of the child.