Martins Ifijeh

The Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Dr. Jide Idris, has stated that women who breastfeed their babies frequently are less prone to ovarian and breast cancer, as well as diabetes later in their life.

He said the health benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for the recommended period in a child’s life was not only beneficial to the child, but could improve the mother’s health, as well as prevent certain health issues in both mother and child.

Idris, who spoke during the commemoration of the 2016 World Breastfeeding Week, also noted that breastfeeding could help in child spacing, such that the mother would recover fully from childbirth before having another pregnancy, which he noted would also help the child as well to develop properly. “

He said children who were exclusively breastfed have higher immunity, higher intelligence quotient, as well as becoming better adults in life, adding that breast milk has antibodies that protects children against infection. “Also, children who get exclusive breast milk have lower chances of getting obese,” the commissioner added.

On his part, the Special Adviser to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode on Primary Health Care (PHC), Dr. Olufemi Onanuga, said only 28 per cent of mothers in Lagos exclusively breastfeed their new babies for at least six months, adding that 72 per cent of mothers in Lagos were not observing the healthy practise.

Onanuga said exclusive breastfeeding and adequate complementary feeding were part of the key interventions for improving child survival and had the potential of saving about 20 per cent of under five children from morbidity and mortality. According to him, about 50–60 per cent of under-five mortality cases were largely due to malnutrition, caused by poor breastfeeding practices and inadequate complementary feeding.

While observing that the national percentage was way lower, at 17 per cent of exclusive breastfeeding rate, he said that of Lagos, which is 28 per cent must be increased, hence the need for more awareness on the benefit of the practise.

He said in Lagos, “statistics has shown that only 22.6 per cent of children were breastfed within one day of birth while 25.9 per cent of children born in Lagos State were breastfed appropriately, (2013 MICS 4). The practice of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life and the introduction of adequate complementary diet till the first two years of life are integral part to child survival and optimal growth. Our future is in our hands which can be guaranteed with the provision of adequate diet to children for optimal brain growth,” he
said.

The special adviser said it was for this reason that the state government institutionalised the extension of the maternity leave to six months and also introduced two weeks paternity leave, adding that wise nursing mothers were expected to make effective use of this long holiday to exclusively breastfeed their babies.

He said the objectives of the 2016 Breastfeeding Week included sensitising the public
that the provision of adequate nutrition for children at all age groups was the first step towards the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG); firmly anchoring breastfeeding as a key component of sustainable development; galvanising a variety of actions at all levels of breastfeeding in the new era of the SDGs and engaging and collaborating with a wider range of actors around the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding.

“Collectively, we must ensure the survival of our children to guaranty our tomorrow. The efforts of this administration are geared towards the promotion of maternal and child survival strategies,” he said. He said to celebrate the week, the state government lined up a number of activities, including creation of public awareness on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, among others.