Save the Children International has called for an increased support and protection of mothers as well as awareness creation for an optimal exclusive breastfeeding practice in Nigeria.
The Acting Country Director, Save the Children International Nigeria, Shannon Ward, said exclusive breastfeeding is the best source of nourishment for infants and young children, and a proven lifesaving strategy that helps protect children against several common childhood illnesses, such as diarrhea and pneumonia
Shannon explained that Breastfeeding saves lives. It is one of the cost-effective intervention for the prevention of deaths in children under five years old.
She further explained that Colostrum, the first milk a mother produces, is the most potent natural immune system booster known to science; lactating mothers are encouraged to give it to their babies immediately after delivery.
“The first 1,000 days of a child’s life, (starting from conception to age 2) is very important for optimal physical, mental and cognitive growth, health and development; breastfeeding is the first and significant step in ensuring the cognitive development of children.
“The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent related World Health Assembly Resolutions recommends that marketing should be guided to ensure breastfeeding of infants and young children isn’t discouraged and the standards and recommendations for breastfeeding should be upheld
The theme of this year’s celebration is ‘Protect Breastfeeding, A Shared Responsibility’ with the slogan for Nigeria, “Join Hands! Support Exclusive Breastfeeding”. This brings another opportunity for the collaboration of various stakeholders and interest group including fathers, religious/traditional rulers and private sector to contribute to improving Nigeria’s Exclusive Breastfeeding rates in the country.
“Economic benefits of breastfeeding to families and society at large cannot be overemphasized. Through our programmes, we will continue to support breastfeeding mothers and encourage their families to support them.
“We are advocating for governments at all levels to create enabling environments for lactating mothers by building crèches in workplaces and implementing policies that will support exclusive breastfeeding for six months”
The Acting Head of Health and Nutrition, Save the Children International Nigeria, Dr Adaeze Oramalu-Ogwuche, said, “Breastfeeding week is one of the greatest outreach vehicles for the promotion of optimal infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices to other network of influencers (fathers, religious/traditional rulers, institutions and Private sector) as they contribute to the exclusive breastfeeding rate in Nigeria.
“It is very important to continue to highlight the importance of breastfeeding and our responsibility, encourage and promote exclusive breastfeeding and improve the health of babies and mothers across the world and in Nigeria’’.
“Save the Children International calls everyone to remember, support and take action to achieve the goals of the week: i.e., improving the health of infant children and promoting, protecting, and supporting the rights of women to breastfeed anywhere and at any time; increasing breastfeeding to near-universal levels could save many lives every year, the majority being children under six months,” she said .