The Federal Ministry of Health has reiterated its commitment toward achieving 50 per cent exclusive breastfeeding by 2018 in line with the provision of the National Strategic Plan on Nutrition.
Mrs. Grace Mojekwu, desk officer, Infant and Young Child Feeding/Nutrition, of the ministry, said this while fielding questions at the News Agency of Nigeria Forum in Abuja ahead of commemoration of the 2017 World Breastfeeding Week.
Mojekwu said that Nigeria was predominantly a breastfeeding nation with 97 per cent compliance, but that the rate of exclusive breastfeeding was very low with only 25 per cent achievement in 2014.
According to her, the Federal Government has put in place policies and regulations that will help safe guard exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria
“The Federal Government has a policy that says nursing mothers should breast feed exclusively for six months and thereafter, complementary feeding can be introduced while breastfeeding is sustained for two years.
“However, we have discovered that some mothers give water, formulas and even herbs to their new born and that is why the right message must get to the communities at the grassroot.
“The regulation of code for marketing breast milk substitute such as formulas and canned foods for infants is still in force, and NAFDAC is regulating that presently.
“Which means infants food manufactures cannot sell or advertise their products to nursing mothers and in health facilities,’’ she said.
Mojekwu said that the ministry would intensify campaign on exclusive breastfeeding and young child feeding practices in health facilities, communities, workplaces as well as train health care professionals.
She added that breastfeeding plays a key role in the development of a child and breast milk was the ideal food for every new born.
She stressed the need for nursing mothers to eat meals that contain the six classes of nutrients which includes protein fat and oil, vitamins, and carbohydrates among others in order to achieve an optimal result.
Mojekwu also urged policy makers at all levels of government to invest in nutrition and maternal health care for healthy living.
Also at the forum, Mrs Olubumi Aiyedun, the National President, National Association of Nigeria Paediatric Nurses has associated poor exclusive breastfeeding practices in Nigeria to inadequate support from family members, husbands and cultural beliefs.
She listed other impediments to exclusive breastfeeding to include delayed initiation of breastfeeding and altitude of health professionals as well as short paid maternity leave for working mothers.
According to her, everyone has a role to play in supporting and creating a conducive atmosphere for nursing mothers, as such is imperative in achieving 50 per cent exclusive breastfeeding by 2018.
Aiyedun advised husbands and partners to accomapny their wives to antenatal clinics as they would be educated on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and care for their baby.