The Lagos State Government and other stakeholders have called for sustained policy implementation and collaboration of citizens in providing adequate nutrition through breastfeeding.
The stakeholders, comprising health workers, community mobilizers, nutritionists, pediatricians, birth attendants and nursing mothers made the call on Thursday at a programme to mark the 2020 Breastfeeding Week, organized by the Alive and Thrive (A & T) Initiative.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that different panel sessions were held at the event, which took place in Ikeja. The theme of the event was: “Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet’’.
Mrs Olubunmi Braheem, a Nutrition Officer with the Lagos State Ministry of Health, said the theme for 2020 World Breastfeeding Day was apt to encourage citizens to support lactating mothers to breastfeed adequately.
Braheem said that adequate breast milk given at the right time was important for healthy child development, listing three important stages that must not be missed even with the coronavirus pandemic.
She named the three stages as early initiation where a child is breastfed within first hour of birth, then exclusively for six months and later till two years of adding complementary meals.
“Breastfeeding is not something that woman can do alone. We are imploring all fathers, grandmas, grandpas, religious organisations, uncles, traditional leaders, influencers and everyone to please support the lactating mother.
“COVID-19 is an emergency and it has been ascertained that the virus does not affect breast milk. We know that breast milk has all the essential nutrients to protect the baby.
“So I will encourage lactating mothers to continue to breastfeed even if she is infested with the virus but she should take responsibility to ensure she observes all the protocols of proper hygiene through hand washing and wearing a face mask.’’
She lamented low compliance with the breastfeeding policy, stating that all hands must be on deck to ensure that Lagos and other states in the federation got a boost by encouraging mothers to breastfeed for the overall benefit of raising a healthy nation.
“Right now in Lagos State the early initiation is so poor and low — just about 34 per cent of the children given birth are initiated within the first hour.’’
Quoting from the National Nutrition Health Survey, 2018 and other surveys, she explained that 78 per cent of newborns were breastfed within a day and not the actual hour of birth.
“What we are advocating is to see that that child receives breast milk within the first hour.’’
Braheem explained that Lagos State had been able to achieve 52 per cent compliance with exclusive breastfeeding within the first six months of newborns but was targeting 65 per cent compliance by 2021 and 90 per cent by 2030.
She said that only about 77 per cent of mothers’ breastfeed their babies till one year and that only 15 per cent reach the two-year benchmark.
“This is low so we are encouraging all our mothers to ensure that they endure to practice breastfeeding for first 1,000 days of life which starts right from when the child is delivered to 24 months of life.’’
The medical officer said that Lagos State had policies in place to support breastfeeding, calling on the private sector and other partners to provide crèches and breastfeeding rooms if they cannot extend duration of maternity leaves.
Other panelists, who featured in the different sessions stressed the need for support by husbands, family members, religious organisations, communities and other stakeholders to encourage breastfeeding.
They took turns to shed light on their efforts to boost early initiation and sustained breastfeeding figures within the first 1,000 days of baby’s life through six months exclusive period till two years before weaning.
They listed how to achieve collaboration towards providing adequate nutrition to infants through breastfeeding during the first 1,000 days, necessary for children to grow and develop to their full potential.
They also high-lighted measures to surmount tradition and cultures which had continued to play a huge role negatively in the practice of exclusive breastfeeding.
The panelists stressed the need for early initiation to ensure that more infants were breastfed within one hour of delivery, instead of being given other fluids.
Community influencers from various Local Government Areas, who were in the panels at the forum took turns to highlight key roles needed to ensure that mothers breastfeed exclusively.
A lactating mother, Mrs Seu Sunmola, from Ikeja, narrated how ignorance made her loose the chance to ensure excellent cognitive and total health for her first three kids by not adhering to exclusive breastfeeding rules.
She called on mothers to prepare for breastfeeding right from the period of pregnancy in order not to miss out on the rewarding opportunities each stage of breastfeeding offered the family and the world at large.
She said that breastfeeding was good for bonding and cognitive reasoning to be able to stand the pressure of outside life.
“Breastfeeding should not stop when the child starts walking but until the child is two years old,” she said.
Among the panelists were Dr Adetoke Adekitan, Nutrition Programme Officer, Lagos State Primary Health Care Board and Dr Modupe Akinyinka, Lagos State Chapter Coordinator of the Civil Society Scaling-Up Nutrition group.
Others include Prof. Adebunkola Adefule-Ositelu, Chairman, Lagos State Traditional Medicine Board, Princess Chidi Uche, Breastfeeding Guardian, Lagos Mainland, Mr Rasheed Awofeso, Community Leader, Kosofe Local Government Area, among others.
Alive and Thrive is a global nutrition initiative to save lives, prevent illness and ensure healthy growth and development through improved maternal nutrition, breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices.
Edited By: Silas Nwoha (NAN)