Breastfeeding protects women by decreasing their risk of developing breast, ovarian cancer and diabetes, an official of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has said
Stanley Nanama, UNICEF Chief of Nutrition, made the disclosure on Tuesday in Abuja at the flag-off of World Breast Feeding Week with the theme “Sustaining breastfeeding together.”
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that this year’s celebration of breast feeding week coincided with the inauguration of Breastfeeding Advocacy Initiative, BAI.
Mr. Nanama, who described the theme as `apt,’ stressed the need for the government and development partners to highlight the importance of breastfeeding in child health and survival interventions.
He said that the week provides the government, donor agencies among other stakeholders, the opportunity to reflect on how to improve breastfeeding practices in Nigeria.
The nutritionist said that breastfeeding does not only reduce the risk of cancer among mothers, but also helps to fast track reduction of excess fat from mothers after delivery.
He added that breastfeeding also contributes to the economic development of the nation.
“Breastfeeding affords mothers good health; protects them by decreasing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer and diabetes among other health challenges.
“Beyond the individual breastfeeding benefits, the country will also benefit from improving breastfeeding practices through increased educational attainment which optimally contributes to boost productivity,” he said.
The nutritionist expressed concern that eight out 10 infants of less than six months in Nigeria were not exclusively breastfed, adding that this had contributed to the burden of malnutrition in the country.
Mr. Nanama explained that children who are not exclusively breastfed are denied the benefits of breastfeeding which included healthcare start in life, reinforced human system.
According to him, breast milk provides antibodies and healthy growth and the development required by children.
The UNICEF official, who identified children as the future of the country, said the best legacy Nigeria could live for a better country tomorrow was to invest in interventions that promote breastfeeding.
“UNICEF has been providing technical and financial support to the government to scale up nutrition in general, especially maternal, infants and young child feeding.
“The practice that ensures children gets the appropriate food provided in a timely manner including breastfeeding to reduce malnutrition.
“UNICEF works with the government at the state and federal level to develop Infant and Young Child Feeding Policy.
“It is also working with communities to remove barriers and support mothers to successfully breastfeed their children.
“We call on the government and other stakeholders to strengthen and reinforce code of marketing of breast milk substitute to protect children against diseases.
“We also urge them to strengthen policy provision that support maternity leave and breastfeeding in work places to encourage nursing mothers to breastfeed their babies,” he said.
On the inauguration of BAI, Mr. Nanama said it was aimed at raising visibility of breastfeeding as the foundation of child survival; help in its development as well as its benefits for the mother’s health.
According to him, BAI is also geared toward ensuring new financial resources for national breastfeeding programmes and supportive policy as well as strengthening political commitment.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that world breastfeeding week is marked annually from August 1 to 7 to raise awareness on the benefits of breastfeeding to the child among others.