The Federal Ministry of Health says in spite of the health and economic benefits of exclusive breastfeeding to mother and child, only 24 per cent of infants are exclusively breastfed in Nigeria.

Chimay Thompson, the Assistant Director, Nutrition Division, Family Health Department in the ministry disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Abuja.

Mrs Thompson said exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life without water, infant formula, liquid or food has proven to save lives, improve women and children’s health and boots lifelong productivity.

However, Thompson said millions of mothers and infants were now losing the benefits as only about 23.7 per cent of infants less than six months were exclusively being breastfed.

“The nationally accepted document which is the multiple indicator cluster survey states that we are presently at 23.7 per cent on exclusive breastfeeding in the country.

“This is not encouraging and if we have to achieve the National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition by the health sector plan, we are supposed to achieve 50 per cent in 2018.

“However, we are partnering with development partners such as Save the Children, Alive and Thrive and we will achieve our goal,’’ she said.

Further highlighting the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, Thompson said it creates a psychological and emotional bond between the mother and baby.

“The baby gets the perfect nutrients needed from the breasts milk, which is the first immunisation given to the child, the vaccine anti-gene rich in vitamin A, comes from the breast milk.

“There are also anti-effective and growth factors which are contained in the breast milk and cannot be got from breast milk substitute or any source of animal milk such as goat or cow.

“It is proven that exclusive breastfeeding prevents most breast and ovarian cancers women experience today.’’

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