By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
A Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS5), released by the United Nations Children Funds (UNICEF) and National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), has revealed that women who attend higher education breastfeed more than those with lesser or no education.
According to the survey, children under 5 who were exclusively breastfed by mothers who attend higher education account for 41.0% and those who attend secondary education account for 30.6%, while those with primary education had 20.8%.
It further said that those with none formal education and those who had no education at all account for 16.9% and 19.6% respectively.
The statistics further revealed that only 23.7% of children aged 0-5 months were exclusively breastfed in the country, while majority with 54.0% were predominantly breastfed.
In terms of urban and rural classification, the survey indicated that most children in both rural and urban areas were predominantly breastfed, indicating 51.9% for rural areas and 59.5% for urban areas.
The findings also made a startling revelation of exclusive breastfeeding in both rural and urban areas. It said while the urban areas, despite its exposure, recorded only 31.7%, the rural area recorded 20.7%.
Speaking on the statistics, Dr. Nankwat Jeplah of the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), said “Women that have attended school are more educated and are more likely to have access to information on the benefit of breastfeeding at school, work place, social media and hospital. It is noted that the higher the level of education the better and longer it is for mothers to breastfeed their babies. Mothers that have primary level of education breastfeed more than those that have not gone to school at all. While those that attended secondary school breastfeed more than those with primary level of education. The higher the educational status the better is the compliance to adequate breastfeeding. This is so because women that are well schooled know the benefit of breastfeeding than those that have not gone to school.”
He however said it is recommended that breastfeeding should begin immediately after the baby is born and continue as often and as much as the baby wants, until when the baby is up to 2 years.
“While exclusive breastfeeding is giving the baby only breast milk from birth till the baby is 6 months. Breast milk has all the necessary nutrients the baby needs for the first 6 months of life and there is no need of supplementing the breast milk with water during this period. However multivitamins and other medications can be given when need be.”
The doctor said during the first few weeks of life, babies needed to be given breast milk roughly every two to three hours. The duration of a feeding is usually 10 to 15 minutes on each breast.
“Older children feed less often. Mothers may pump milk so that it can be used later when breastfeeding is not possible but that must be done under a very hygiene condition. Breastfeeding has a number of benefits to both the mother and the baby, which infant formula lacks. Newborn(neonate) should not be deprived of the first breast milk(colostrums) the mother produces on the ground that it is not healthy for the baby. The colostrums has higher concentration of protein-antibodies compare to other subsequent breast milk produce by the breast”.
Speaking on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, Jeplah said children who are exclusively breastfed are better off than those that are only predominantly breastfed not to talk of those who are not breastfed at all.
“This is because breast milk is the natural food for full-term infants and is the appropriate milk for early life. It is always available at the proper temperature and requires no preparation time. It is fresh and free of contaminating bacteria, thereby reducing the chances of gastrointestinal disturbances.
“Children who are not exclusively breastfed have higher prevalence of illnesses like diarrhea, otitis media(middle ear infection), pneumonia, bacteremia, and meningitis during the 1st year of life. Breast-fed infants also appear to have a lower frequency of certain allergic and chronic diseases in later life than formula-fed infants. Infants who are not breastfed do not have the kind of bonding that exist between a mother and a breastfed infant. The mother that is personally involved in nurturing of her infant, have the feeling of being essential and a sense of accomplishment. At the same time, the infant develops a close and comfortable physical relationship with the mother.
On ways to help encourage breastfeeding, the doctor said various steps are needed to improved the attitude of women to breastfeeding.
“Most of the women who do not practice exclusive breastfeeding are not educated and are leaving in the rural areas. The approach has to be holistic. The girl child should not be seen as a second citizen. She should be properly send to school like her male counterpart. He who trainsa girl child has trained a nation.
“Breastfeeding education should be thought in secondary schools and other higher level of learning. Government policies should encourage awareness and enforcement of compulsory exclusive breastfeeding. All women who are delivered of a baby should have 6 months maternity leave( as it is done in Lagos) to help the mother practice exclusive breastfeeding.
“There should be free anti natal care(ANC) for all pregnant women especially in the rural areas so that they can access free health information on breastfeeding from a trained midwife in the primary health centre (PHC). There should be an advocacy on breastfeeding in radio stations, televisions, worship places and other social media by individuals, NGOs and government. Also, women, family and communities should be empowered to help in improving girl child”.