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Nigeria’s exclusive breastfeeding rate rises to 25%

  • As FG launches fresh campaigns to rev practice

ABUJA –  For the first time ever, exclusive breastfeeding of new-borns in Nigeria is 25 percent. The rate jumped from 17 percent where it has stagnated for nearly a decade to 25, the Federal Government said on Tuesday.

The development was a result of increased awareness by public and private organizations working on maternal and child health in the country, including conviction among families of immense gains provided by exclusive breastfeeding, the government stated.

Speaking at the Annual World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) which is commemorated every 1st – 7th August in Abuja, the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole said Nigeria had been predominantly a breastfeeding nation with breastfeeding rate as high as 97 percent.

This year’s commemoration, with the theme “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together” witnessed the launch of Breastfeeding Advocacy Initiative (BAI) and the National Social and Behaviour Change Communication Strategy for Maternal Infant and Young Child Nutrition (NBBCCS 4 MIYCN) by Wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari.

Represented by the Director, Family Health in the ministry, Adewole explained that benefits of breastfeeding range from being the ideal food for the survival, health, growth and development of a child to being an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mother and family at large.

“However, the Exclusive Breastfeeding (EBF) rate has shown only marginal increase from the very low rate of 2% in 1990 to 17% in 2013; and the current rate is 25% as reported in the 2014 National Nutrition and Health Surveys (NNHS).

“The National Policy on Infant and Young Child Feeding describes exclusive breastfeeding as giving infants only breast milk in the first six months of life; no other liquids, drinks, semi-solids or solids, and not even-water except oral rehydration solution or drops/ syrups of vitamins, minerals or medicines as prescribed by the physician.

“Thereafter, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods with continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond to meet their evolving nutritional requirements.

“The benefits of unrestricted exclusive breastfeeding practices as initiated within an hour from birth results in ample milk production to sustain the infants; (except for a few medical conditions), lead to 87% preventable deaths in infants younger than 6 months (2016 Lancet series on Breastfeeding), reduces infant mortality associated with common childhood illnesses like diarrhoea or pneumonia and ensures quicker recovery from illnesses. The mother also benefits maximally in child spacing, reduction of ovarian and breast cancers, and ensuring rapid maternal weight loss after birth,” he said.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization and United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, in a joint release said breast milk contains all the nutrients and fluids a baby needs for the first six months of life, stressing that is the first and best protection a baby has against an array of illness and disease – a critical first vaccine for the baby.

The organizations noted that breast milk helps to prevent pneumonia and diarrhea, two of the leading causes of death for children under-five. According to the statement, babies who are breastfed are 14 times less likely to die than those who are not fed with breast milk.

“Breastfeeding reduces the incidence of death in new-born babes. As new-borns account for nearly half of all deaths of children under-five; the longer breastfeeding id delayed, the higher the risk death in the first month of life. Delaying breastfeeding by 2-23 hours after birth increases the risk of dying in the first 28 days of a baby’s life by 40 percent.

“Breastfeeding helps in the cognitive development of children, meaning they do better in school, and longer breastfeeding durations are associated with higher scores on intelligence tests. World Bank’s new investment Framework for Nutrition notes that every dollar invested in promoting breastfeeding can generate a return of $35 in economic benefits,” the statement furthered.

But, the UN agencies, using previously used rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the country (17 percent) said the level of exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria meant that “at least 5.4 million children each year miss out on its benefits, contributing to the country’s problem of chronic child malnutrition; 11 million children under five are malnourished in Nigeria.

“The low rate of exclusive breastfeeding leads to more than 100,000 child deaths and translates into almost $12billion in future economic loses for the country.

“When the cost of low cognitive development and low IQ, as well as health costs are added in, inadequate breastfeeding is estimated to cost the Nigerian economy US$21 billion per year, or 4.1 percent of its gross national income. About 74 percent of children who are not exclusively breastfed are from families in the lowest income group in Nigeria.”

Meanwhile, Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari said while launching the new campaign, that benefits of exclusive breastfeeding include providing babies with essential nutrients that would prevent them from diseases, malnutrition and death.

She called for support for mothers who breastfeed while also appealing to employers to create breastfeeding rooms, recreational centres for nursing mothers.

“Many mothers want to breastfeed more than the time they do at work. these facilities will help them do so,” she said, even as she pledged the support of her non-governmental organization, “Future Assured,” for breastfeeding programmes in the country.

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