The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, on Tuesday canvassed support and promotion of exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria, saying it could improve children’s nutrition, health and economic development.
The minister spoke at the launch of the 2016 Lancet Series of Breastfeeding and High Level Policy Dialogue on Promoting Breastfeeding for National Development in Nigeria.
“Adequate nutritional practice which begins with breastfeeding is the best and normal way of providing newborns, infants and young children with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development,” Mr. Adewole said.
“Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information and the support of their family, the health care system, and society at large.
“Exclusive breastfeeding is the foundation for human building, optimal breastfeeding practices, which includes timely initiation of breastfeeding within 30 minutes of delivery, exclusive breastfeeding of 0-6 months with only breast milk, no other milks, solid or semi-solid foods and not even given baby water until the 6th completed month has proven great impact to health, education, economic returns to the child, family, community and nation at large.”
Also speaking at the event, the wife of the president, Aisha Buhari, represented by the wife of the Niger State governor, Amina Bello, said breast milk was the best nutrition a mother could give her infant or young girl.
She said new research by Lancelot revealed that breastfeeding improves brain development and could lead to better academic performance and productivity later in life.
“The state of maternal and child health in our country is unacceptable. A woman’s chance of dying from pregnancy and child birth in Nigeria is one in 13, and every day we lose 2,300 children under the age of five a quarter of this are new born but the majority of which occur in the first week of life.
“We have also heard what happens when infant don’t receive the benefits of breastfeeding their immune system are weaker healthcare cause are higher and as adult reduced intellectual ability limits their productivity.
“Improved breastfeeding practices can also prevent nearly half of all diarrhoea episodes and help all respiratory infections, breastfeeding can also protect women against cancers yet Nigerian women are currently not empowered to breastfeed in fact we have one of the poorest breastfeeding rate in Africa.”
The Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health, Amina Shamaki, said Nigeria was among the 11 African countries identified in the Global Hunger Index 2014 as having “alarming” food and hunger situations.
She said the situation was no better in the case of infants and young children through their feeding practices.
She said 70 percent brain development occurs during pregnancy and 30 percent within the 2nd year in a child’s life.
“This indeed calls for urgent action on optimal IYCF practices whose foundation is laid by early initiation, exclusive breastfeeding & continued breastfeeding till baby is two years or beyond with adequate age-specific minimum acceptable diets that comprises of minimum meal frequently and variety of food groups,” she said.