By Asmau Ahmad
The Federal Ministry of Health has urged citizens to enable breastfeeding by supporting working parents with conducive workspaces to improve health of the baby and address malnutrition.
Ms Patricia Deworitshe, Director, Media and Public Relations in the ministry, made the call in a statement in Abuja ahead of the World Breastfeeding Week (WBW).
The World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every August 1 to August7 across the world.
The theme for WBW 2023, “Enable Breastfeeding, making a Difference for Working Parents,” focuses on creating more awareness on breastfeeding support in workspaces.
Deworitshe, in the statement, also emphasised the benefits of breastfeeding on infants, young children, mothers, families and the society at large.
According to her, conducive environment will ensure optimal breastfeeding and increase productivity in the workplaces.
She stated: “In Nigeria, only two per cent of infants under age 6 months were found to be exclusively breastfed, while only 42 per cent were put to breast within the first hour of birth.
“To achieve a higher impact on malnutrition reduction such as stunting, the coverage of nutrition sensitive and nutrition specific interventions among the targeted population should be 80 per cent and above.”
She noted that balancing the demands of careers, domestic chores and maintaining the household were challenges affecting effective breastfeeding among working mothers.
She identified myths, early return to work after childbirth and lack of a conducive breastfeeding environment, especially for working mothers, as hindrances to breastfeeding.
Deworitshe stated that aggressive marketing of breastmilk substitutes among others also hindered breastfeeding of infants in Nigeria.
She said: “The Ministry also wishes to emphasise that working places should be made conducive to encourage breastfeeding as this will enhance productivity for these mothers, while assuring their nurturing role.
“Breastmilk is very nutritious and builds the immunity of the baby. It also protects babies from common diseases such as diarrhoea and pneumonia.
“Much more, the bonding between mother and baby during breastfeeding improves emotional and social development of the child.
“The general public, is being reminded that breastmilk is the ideal food for infants, it is readily available, cheap, safe, clean and gives the first form of protection against many common childhood illnesses.”
The statement also emphasised the importance of breastfeeding within an hour of birth.
It stated that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond with the introduction of appropriate complementary food were very important.