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A space for working mothers to breastfeed



A space for working mothers to breastfeed

Work, they say, has been a constant barrier to most mothers who claim they desire to exclusively breastfeed their children. To clear off this excuse, the Federal Government is putting policies such as review of maternity leave and establishment of crèches to ensure adequate breastfeeding of all babies at no cost. REGINA OTOKPA reports



A cross section of working mothers in Abuja who are currently nursing their babies, have said they had to resort to the use of breast milk substitutes to keep their children fed while they were away from home. Mrs. Christiana Igbokwe, a procurement officer, who works eight to nine hours in Maitama and lives in Kubwa, told INSIDE ABUJA, that, “although it is expensive, it allows me go to work and back rest assured my baby is well fed. I must say it has its implications on me as a mother and as a woman, but man must wack.

“I resumed work when my baby was three months and so I had to take her to a crèche in Kubwa, stopped the exclusive breastfeeding and bought baby formula which by the way is over N3,000 though there are different types. Even though I had wanted to continue with just my breast milk, work wouldn’t allow me because I don’t have breast pump to enable me pump out my breast milk for them to feed her with at the crèche,” she said.

Igbokwe was cut up in the dilemma facing most working cum nursing mothers in the country. Although some are lucky enough to have crèches at or close to their place of work where they can sneak in, breast feed their babies and get back to work, others do not have that luxury.

Marking the 2018 World Breastfeeding week themed “Breastfeeding as the Foundation of Life,” experts, drawn from the public, private sector and the international scene, have continued to advocate the adoption of exclusive breastfeeding by all nursing mothers, especially the first initiation of breast milk immediately after birth. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Deputy Representative to Nigeria, Pernille Ironside, the first initiation of breast milk was critical to a child’s life and the future of the country, as it serves as the babies’ first immunisation, the first protection against illness and diseases and was also critical for saving new born lives. She lamented that Nigeria has lost N18billion due to inadequate exclusive breastfeeding practices, as a result of the more than one thousand Nigerian children who die annually from cases of diarrhoea and pneumonia, which would have been prevented if they were exclusively breastfed. According to her, only three out of every 10 children within the ages of zero to six months are enjoying the enormous benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. “Breastfeeding is crucial and it needs to be protected, promoted and supported.

We have to sustain this partnership and make sure it touches every woman in this country. This is important because we know that exclusive breastfeeding and early initiation rate has remained stagnant in Nigeria with minimal improvement over these years.”

A study on the cost of not exclusively breastfeeding conducted by the Ministry of Health last year reveals that inadequate and low rates of breastfeeding causes over 10 million avoidable cases of childhood diarrhoea and pneumonia each year and leads to more than a thousand child deaths “This translates into almost N18 billion in future economic losses for the country but the breastfeeding benefits the country not only by lowering the healthcare costs, increasing educational retainment and ultimately, boosting productivity and there is evidence today that every one thousand naira that is invested in supporting breastfeeding can generate an estimated N35, 000 on economic returns.

“The best legacy Nigeria can leave behind today for a better country tomorrow is to invest in interventions that promote breastfeeding. UNICEF will continue to advocate for the benefits of breastfeeding and for women to get the needed information, the advice and support that they need to breastfeed their chil-dren,” she said.

Ironside urged the government to strengthen policy provisions that support six months maternity leave, provision of crèches, approval and operationalization of the revised national regulations on the marketing of breast milk substitutes including strengthening the enforcement of the code on marketing of breast milk substitute to protect children from the risks involved. Moved to changing the narrative surrounding exclusive breastfeeding in the country, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, revealed that plans were already underway to review the number of months for maternity leave from four to six months, and to ensure all work places have crèches to ensure working mothers adequately breast feed their babies without excuses. According to him, there were also ongoing plans with support of the World Bank, to flag off a Zero Stunting Campaign in order to make malnutrition a thing of the past in the country. Adewole, who lamented that the 23 per cent of women practicing exclusive breastfeeding in the country was a failure, maintained that even achieving 50 per cent was unacceptable if the vision of ensuring no child was wasted, or stunted must be achieved. ”

When you invest $1 in breastfeeding, you get $35 so the return in investment is huge and much more importantly, babies that are breast fed hardly fall ill, the mothers are protected from ovarian and breast cancer. Nothing can be better.

“It is a national investment in the cerebral architecture of our citizens and in the future development of our country. So, let us work together to promote it. Now, we have four months of maternity leave. We are working with the Ministry of Labour to increase it to six, so that there will be no excuse.

“The brain we need to carry out all the things we do is sorted out in the first two years. So, if you give the baby good food, good proteins, then they will come out with good brains and we will have good leaders and workers but if we don’t give them good food, we are going to have a generation of jesters over the years and this is not good for this country. “We need to promote and do everything to sustain exclusive breastfeeding. For the nation, it is a win; for the mother, it is a win; for the man, it is a win because you don’t have to be providing money to buy breast milk substitutes. For the mother, it is protection of health and for the child, it is super protection,” he said.

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