The federal government has said optimal breastfeeding prevents child deaths and postpartum bleeding and also lowers a woman’s risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, stated this at the celebration of the 2022 world breastfeeding week held on Monday with the theme, ‘Step up for breastfeeding: Educate and Support.’
According to him, adherence to proper breastfeeding can prevent overweight and obesity.
He added that the government aims to reach the 2025 World Health Assembly target of raising the rate of exclusive breastfeeding to at least 50 per cent.
“However, many of the actors lack the necessary knowledge, attitudes and skills to support these women. Thus, there is a need to strengthen the capacity of all actors across the different levels to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
“Breastfed babies have stronger immunity, reduced risk of infections and many childhood illnesses, and may also have longer-term health benefits including reduced risk of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence. Studies have shown that obesity rates are 15 to 30 per cent lower in breastfed babies compared to formula-fed babies.”
In a joint press statement commemorating World Breastfeeding Week, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organisation said that over 70 per cent of Nigeria infants are denied exclusive breastfeeding.
“During emergencies, including those in Afghanistan, Yemen, Ukraine, the Horn of Africa, and the Sahel, breastfeeding guarantees a safe, nutritious, and accessible food source for babies and young children. It offers a powerful line of defense against disease and all forms of child malnutrition, including waste.
“In Nigeria, the Exclusive Breastfeeding rate is 29 percent, meaning that over 70 percent of infants in Nigeria are denied the aforementioned benefits of breast milk in their formative years. Only nine percent of organisations have a workplace breastfeeding policy, indicating that mothers lack the enabling environment to optimally breastfeed their babies.
“The results are high stunting rates of 37 per cent of children under five, of which 21 per cent are severe, and wasting among children under five years of age (7 per cent). They continue to present severe consequences for the child.”