Nutrition Specialist with the UNICEF’s Bauchi Field Office, Mrs Philomena Irene, highlighting the benefits and importance of breastfeeding for children, mothers and family. Photo: Murtala Muhammad
By Murtala Muhammad
Healthy childhood and cognitive development are scientifically proven to be largely dependent on exclusive breastfeeding of babies for the first six months of childbirth.
Research has shown that children who are not breastfed are fourteen times more likely to die within their first year of life than babies who were adequately breastfed.
It has also been confirmed that women who practice exclusive breastfeeding are naturally protected against breast, ovarian and uterine cancers as well as unplanned pregnancies.
Against this background, this year’s World Breastfeeding Week focuses on creation of enabling environment for working class women to safely breastfeed their newborn babies in the workplace.
Stakeholders from different works of life at a Media Dialogue organised by the United Nations Children Fund UNICEF, Bauchi Field Office, on World Breastfeeding Week have advocated the provision of creches in the workplace for working mothers to give their babies breast milk to meet their nutritional needs.
They also called for the extension of Maternity Leave from three to four or six months, introduction of two weeks Paternity Leave and pay full-time leave allowance to lactating parents for them to be economically viable during the period.
An Associate Professor with the Bayero University Kano BUK, Salisu Maiwada said if mothers were economically viable they have more chances to eat nutritious food that would give them enough breast milk to feed their babies.
Professor Maiwada who is also a nutritionist said lactating mothers should not for whatever reason mix breast milk with water in the first six months of their newborn babies, affirmed that the breast contains more than eighty percent water.
A Nutrition Specialist with the UNICEF’s Bauchi Field Office, Mrs Philomena Irene noted that breastfeeding is widely accepted in the Northern part of the country, but exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of baby’s life needs to be improved.
The 2021 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey MICS reveals that exclusive breastfeeding practice in the five states under the UNICEF’s Bauchi Field Office, Adamawa leads with 53.3%, Plateau 38.6%, Taraba 33.7%, Gombe 30.7% and the lowest is Bauchi state with 26.4%.
The MICS 2021 also indicates that compliance to Minimum Acceptable Diet for children of six to 23 months, Taraba tops with 24.6%, Adamawa 11.8%, Plateau 9.7%, Gombe 8.6% and Bauchi 4.0%.
In all these five focused states the indicators show that Bauchi is the lowest in both exclusive breastfeeding and compliance to acceptable diet used in complementary feeding for babies of six to 23 months.
Issues identified to be behind the negative indicators in the states are sociocultural norms and non-existence of breastfeeding corners in the workplace.
Some working class mothers Abida Mohammed, Maimuna Idi and Adama Muhammad who spoke to Radio Nigeria in Azare, the Headquarters of Katagum local government area of Bauchi State during a field visit to some health facilities, said absence of creches in the workplace pose a threat to exclusive breastfeeding and called for the provision of same.
The Executive Chairman of Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Rilwanu Mohammed said the state government is working on a proposed executive bill that will be transmitted to the State House of Assembly for enactment of a law for the creation of creches in workplace and extension of Maternity Leave from three to four or six months depending on the employers’ capacity.
The Chairman Committee on Health in the State House of Assembly, Lawal Dauda said the bill when transmitted to the house, a public hearing would be conducted, after which it would be given accelerated hearing for passage into law.
World Breastfeeding Week is being celebrated annually from 1st to 7th of August to create awareness on the importance of breastfeeding.
This year’s theme is “Enabling Breastfeeding, Making a Difference for Working Parents”.