IN Nigeria and Africa as a whole, breastfeeding has been the most culturally acceptable mode of feeding babies within the first two years of life. As a practice, breastfeeding has a strong connotation for promoting the bonding that started at pregnancy between mother and child.
Breastfeeding in the Nigerian setting has always
been a thing of pride. Culture actually demands that every mother
should breastfeed her child except otherwise advised. Nigerian mothers
used to be well known for breastfeeding anytime and anywhere.
even breastfeed while working on the farms, which is why advocates of
breastfeeding recommend the continuation of the practice by
breastfeeding babies wherever mothers earn their living.
milk serves as the best food for babies that are less than six months.
Breastfeeding a child provides all the goodness of breast milk that are
known to be uniquely superior and vital for optimal infant physical,
emotional and mental growth. It is essential for their healthy
development and all other short and long term outcomes.
World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that infants should be
exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve
In response to the importance of
exclusive breastfeeding, the Federal Government established the
Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) in Benin, Enugu, Maiduguri,
Lagos, Jos and Port Harcourt with the aim of providing mothers and their
infants a supportive environment for breastfeeding and to promote
appropriate breastfeeding practices, thus helping to reduce infant
morbidity and mortality rates.
It is, however,
worrisome and unacceptable that Nigeria currently has one of the lowest
exclusive breastfeeding rates in Africa. In a National Demographic
Health Survey (NDHS), the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the country
stood at 13 per cent.
Despite sustained efforts,
exclusive breastfeeding rates in Nigeria have fallen well below the
WHO/UNICEF recommendation of 90 per cent for children less than six
months in developing countries. Currently, exclusive breastfeeding rates
in Nigeria compare poorly with other neighbouring countries in Africa.
the global community marks this year’s edition of the annual World
Breastfeeding Day with the theme – “Breastfeeding And Work: Let’s Make
It Together”, more involvement and dedication is required to galvanise
multi-dimensional support to enable women everywhere work and breast
Nursing mothers in particular require more
support to combine breastfeeding with work in the formal, informal and
home setting. The private sector must get involved in the process of
encouraging breastfeeding mothers through provision of crèches and
breastfeeding rooms in work places while approving flexible work hours
The promotion of actions by employers to
become baby friendly and actively facilitate the support of employed
mothers to preserve and reap the benefits of the age-long practice of
breast feeding, is a task that must be done.
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