From Femi Oyelola Kaduna
Alive and Thrive, an NGO working to improve nutrition in Kaduna State, said it has mobilised labour unions and other relevant stakeholders to break barriers inhibiting breastfeeding practice among working class mothers.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the NGO held a Round Table Dialogue with relevant stakeholders in Kaduna, tagged “Barriers to Exclusive Breastfeeding for Nursing Mothers in Formal Workforce”.
The dialogue was part of activities to mark the 2018 World Breastfeeding Week Celebration with the theme “Breastfeeding: Foundation of Life”.
Mr Christopher Musa, the Team Leader of the NGO in the state, explained that the objective of the meeting was to build support for extended maternity leave for women working in public and private sectors.
Musa said that the goal was to ensure enabling environment for working class mothers to adequately breastfeed their children.
“The dialogue was also organised to promote knowledge and awareness on issues around baby formula also known as Breast Milk Substitute (BMS) and its impact on the family,” he added.
He explained that the move became necessary in view of the disturbing indices of child mortality, which placed Nigeria in second place in the world due to poor breastfeeding practices among women in the country.
According to him, only about 17 per cent of women in the country adequately breastfeed their babies, resulting in high infant mortality, poor brain development and negative economic consequences on the family and the nation.
The officer also advised women against BMS, stressing that the practice not only affect the cognitive development of a child but incur huge economic losses on the family.
“For example, a 500gm of an average baby formula cost N7,000 and a child will need 40 of such in six months, meaning that a family will spend N280,000 in six months on baby formula.
“What this means is that a family that earns about N150,000 in six months will spend 180 per cent of such income, thereby pushing the family into huge debt,” he said.
According to him, this huge expenditure can be averted by simply extending maternity leave to six months and providing crèches and lactating rooms in work places to enable nursing mothers adequately breastfeed babies.
He said that a memo is currently before the Kaduna State Executive Council seeking to extent maternity leave to six months.
“Another is before the state’s Planning and Budget Commission pushing for the establishment of crèches and lactating rooms in at least 10 ministries, departments and agencies.
“We are equally pushing for increase funding of nutrition interventions and improve infant and young child feeding through behavioural change.
“Labour unions and other relevant stakeholders have a role to play in ensuring that these became a reality,” Musa said.
Also speaking, Dr Hadiza Balarabe, the Executive Secretary, Kaduna State Primary Health Care Development Agency, noted that adequate breastfeeding build the immunity of infants against numerous child killer disease.
Represented by Dr Neyu Iliyasu, a director in the agency, Balarabe said that women were prevented from taking their babies to the office in most work places, which prevent them from breastfeeding their babies.
“We need to find lasting solution and the way forward for working class women to practice breastfeeding even while at work,” Balarabe said.
Similarly, UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, UNICEF Kaduna Field Office, Mrs Chinwe Eziefe, explained that the breastfeeding week was being held to sensitise and encourage women to practise adequate breastfeeding and how to do it.
Ezeife noted that to make a headway in promoting breastfeeding among nursing mothers, the whole community must be involved, particularly husbands in supporting the women.
She said that UNICEF and other development partners working in the state would continue to provide the needed support in ensuring that most mothers breastfeed their babies.
She solicited the support of labour unions in the move to extend maternity leave and provision of enabling environment in work places for nursing mothers to practice exclusive breastfeeding.
Dr Aisha Sadiq, Kaduna State Epidemiologist, a resource person at the event, noted that barriers in workplaces made it nearly impossible for nursing mothers to breastfeed their babies.
According to her, working class mothers want to breastfeed their babies but the working environment is not conducive for them, stressing that enabling environment should be created.
Mrs Martha Banki, Chairperson, Women Committee of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Kaduna State Chapter, commended development partners working to improve the rights of workers in the state.
Banki pledged NLC’s support in ensuring conducive environment for working mothers to practice adequate breastfeeding for the development of the child.