Th e Federal Ministry of Health has reiterated its commitment toward achieving 50 per cent exclusive breastfeeding by 2018 in line with the provision of the National Strategic Plan on Nutrition. Desk Offi cer, Infant and Young Child Feeding/Nutrition, of the ministry, Ms. Grace Mojekwu, said this while fi elding questions at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja ahead of the commemoration of the 2017 World Breastfeeding Week. Ms. Mojekwu said Nigeria was predominantly a breastfeeding nation with 97 per cent compliance. She, however, said that the rate of exclusive breastfeeding was very low with only 25 per cent achievement in 2014.
According to her, the federal government has put in place policies and regulations that will help safe guard exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria. She said: “Th e federal government has a policy that says nursing mothers should breast feed exclusively for six months and thereafter, complementary feeding can be introduced while breastfeeding is sustained for two years. “However, we have discovered that some mothers give water, formulas and even herbs to their new born and that is why the right message must get to the communities at the grassroots.
“Th e regulation of Code for marketing breast milk substitute such as formulas and canned foods for infants is still in force, and NAFDAC is regulating that presently. “Th is means infants’ food manufactures cannot sell or advertise their products to nursing mothers and in health facilities.” Ms. Mojekwu said the ministry would intensify campaign on exclusive breastfeeding and young child feeding practices in health facilities, communities, workplaces, as well as train health care professionals.
According to her, breastfeeding plays a key role in the development of a child and breast milk was the ideal food for every new born. She stressed the need for nursing mothers to eat meals that “contain the six classes of nutrients which includes protein fat and oil, vitamins, and carbohydrates among others in order to achieve an optimal result.”
She also urged policy makers at all levels of government to invest in nutrition and maternal health care for healthy living. Also, the National President, National Association of Nigeria Paediatric Nurses, Olubumi Aiyedun, associated poor exclusive breastfeeding practices in Nigeria to inadequate support from family members, husbands and cultural beliefs. She listed other impediments to exclusive breastfeeding to include “delayed initiation of breastfeeding and altitude of health professionals as well as short paid maternity leave for working mothers.” According to her, everyone has a role to play in supporting and creating a conducive atmosphere for nursing mothers, as such is imperative in achieving 50 per cent exclusive breastfeeding by 2018.
Ms. Aiyedun advised husbands and partners to follow their wives to antenatal clinics as they would be educated on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and care for their baby. She urged the private and public sectors to provide crèches in all organisations and facilities as a way of supporting mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies.