By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has said that the lives of an estimated 20,000 children would be saved if nursing mothers would strictly observe six-month exclusive breastfeeding.
Ehanire said that the ministry is currently reviewing the national guidelines on the Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI), which encompasses baby friendly services in the hospital, community and workplace.
The minister stated this yesterday during the celebration of the 2020 World Breastfeeding Week.
Quoting a publication by the World Health Organisation (WHO), on breastfeeding, Ehanire said “that scaling up breastfeeding practices to almost universal level could prevent an estimated 823,000 annual deaths, or 13·8 per cent of all deaths of children younger than 24 months.
“Breastfeeding also provides health benefits to mothers, by helping to prevent postpartum bleeding, support child spacing, lower the risk of breast and ovarian cancers and earlier return to pre-pregnancy body weight.
“An estimated 20,000 maternal deaths could be prevented annually if optimal breastfeeding were practiced,” he said.
The minister regretted that the breastfeeding indices in Nigeria are below optimal despite the benefits accruing from exclusive breastfeeding practice.
He said that the National Demographic and Health Survey of 2018 showed that 97 per cent of children were breastfed at one point or the other but only 42 per cent were put to breast within an hour of birth while the proportion of children that had exclusively breastfeeding within their first six months was a mere 29 per cent.
Earlier in his remark, the Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunmibe Mamora, said that apart from being the most single cost-effective intervention for saving infant lives, improving the health, social and economic development of individuals, breastfeeding helps to lowers the risk of hypertension and diabetes.
Mamora said that babies that were denied breastfeeding would suffer lower intelligence that would result in economic losses of about $302 billion annually.
Over the years, Nigeria has joined more than 170 countries to commemorate the World Breastfeeding Week, a weeklong series of activities from August 1 to 7, every year.
The week long program was intended to create awareness and generate support for improved breastfeeding practices for good health and wellbeing outcomes for infants and young children. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet,” which focused on the impact of proper infant feeding on the environment and to garner support for breastfeeding for the health of people and planet.