By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
Stakeholders in the health sector have emphasized the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for children within the period of six months.
Save the Children International (SCI), the Nigerian Senate, Kaduna state government and other stakeholders made the call on Tuesday, during a
Webinar on World breast feeding week themed; Innovative Strategies for Improving Breastfeeding and Nutrition in Nigeria.
Specifically, SCI Programme Development and Quality Director, Shannon Ward, said breast milk is very important for survival of babies, adding that it provides other antibodies that also protects babies against many childhood illnesses.
She added that breast feeding is one of the most important ways of promoting the growth and development of the infant.
She said SCI will continue to support the Nigerian government to help women and children in the country.
Also speaking, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, said breastfed children achieve better in life than their other counterparts.
He said the Senate is working to implement policies that promotes healthy living for women and children.
The senator disclosed plans by the National Assembly to review the National Health Insurance Authority Bill to incorporate exclusive breastfeeding.
The bill has passed third reading on the floor of the Senate and currently at the House of Representatives. “If signed into an act by the president, the bill will go a long way in improving child nutrition,” Oloriegbe stated.
On her part, the wife of the Kaduna state Governor, Ummi El-rufai tasked parents to make exclusive breastfeeding their most important responsibility to the family.
She said the state government is working assiduously to revamp the health sector in the state to address various challenges faced by women and children.
She said within the COVID-19 pandemic, there is availability and increased access to health care workers, including midwives and nurses, to deliver skilled breastfeeding counselling to mothers.
She said the the government is also working to increase investment in maternal, infant, and child nutrition interventions at the community level.
WHO recommend that babies be fed only breastmilk for their first 6 months, after which they should continue breastfeeding – as well as eating other nutritious and safe foods – until 2 years of age or beyond. Currently, only 29 percent of Nigerian children between the ages of 0 to 6 months are exclusively breastfed.
Breastmilk substitutes such as infant formula, other milk products, and beverages not only contribute negatively to the health and development of the child, but also to environmental degradation and climate change. Breastmilk, on the other hand, is natural, and is the only food a baby needs in the first 6 months of life.