The Cross River State Commissioner for Health, Dr Betta Edu has joined the rest of the world to call for improved access to skilled counselling which will help nursing mothers build their resolve to breast feed their babies throughout the required duration even in the COVID-19 pandemic lock down.
She lends her voice alongside World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF on Wednesday when briefing some newsmen in her office as part of efforts to commiserate this year World Breastfeeding week which runs from 1st -7th August, 2020.
Dr Edu said Malnutrition is a direct or underlying cause of 45 percent of all deaths of under-five children. Nigeria has the second highest burden of stunted children in the world, with a national prevalence rate of 32 percent of children under five. When children are not Exclusively breastfeed for first 6 months and during infanthood, the do not achieve optimal growth and their brains do not develop well, leaving a poor formative foundation that could affect that child through out life. It most times results in malnutrition, several hospital visits for ill health management and sometimes death.
it is important for governments to protect and promote women’s access to skilled breastfeeding counselling which is a critical component of breastfeeding support. It is also important that we work with the House of assembly to pass laws that will extend maternity leave for women and allow employers to let nursing mothers off work earlier than other workers.
She noted that the theme of World Breastfeeding Week 2020 is “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet”. According to her Cross River State Government under the leadership of his Excellency, Senator Prof Ben Ayade has been very supportive of the sensitization drive of the health sector in this regards which is targeted at ensuring mothers and families receive counseling support, along with the information, advice, and reassurance they need to nourish their babies in the best way.
She disclosed that WHO and UNICEF recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health.
Edu further stated that to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods, while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years.
“Exclusive Breastfeeding has an important role in the prevention of different forms of childhood malnutrition, including wasting, stunting, over and underweight and micronutrient deficiencies. These are part of the counseling we give nursing mothers across our health facilities to help mothers build confidence while respecting their individual circumstances.
Edu said Counselling can empower women to overcome challenges and prevent feeding and care practices that may interfere with optimal breastfeeding, such as the provision of unnecessary liquids, foods, and breast milk substitutes to infants and young children.
She said breastfeeding reduces risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes in mothers while new mothers should not wash off first milk from nipples before breastfeeding baby. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic challenging moment the world is passing through. She urge mothers to sustain breastfeeding despite COVID-19 fears.