The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has decried the attitude of Borno State mothers to breastfeeding, noting that more than 70 per cent of babies in the state are not exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of life.
The international organisation immediately called on the state government to strengthen policies that support exclusive and continuous breastfeeding practices so as to let babies enjoy the numerous benefits of breast milk.
The UNICEF Chief of Field Office in Borno, Dr. Clement Adams, said this on Wednesday in a statement to commemorate the World Breastfeeding Week in Borno.
Adams, while citing a 2016-2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, also disclosed that 64 per cent of babies born in the state are not breastfed within the first hour of life.
He said: “Seven out of every 10 children between the ages of zero and six months are not exclusively breastfed in Borno State. These children who are not exclusively breastfed are denied the uncontested benefits that come with exclusive breastfeeding, including the prevention of many early-life diseases.
“Breastfeeding can benefit Borno State by helping to lower health care costs, increase educational attainment and ultimately, boost productivity. In fact, there is evidence that every N1,000 invested in supporting breastfeeding can generate an estimated N35,000 in economic returns for the country.”
Adams added that UNICEF in Borno, with support from the Department for International Development (DFID), is sensitizing communities and training mobilisers to educate mothers on the benefits of breastfeeding.
Adams, who affirmed that breast milk remains the safest for children in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, added that substitutes for breast milk deter the development of children and contribute to environmental pollution.
“Metals used to package infant formula, if not recycled, are likely to end up in landfill sites, while plastic, aluminium and paper waste often end up in our streams and rivers, with huge consequences to the environment, planet and the overall health of the people,’’ he said.
He however called on government, traditional and religious leaders to mobilise support for exclusive and continuous breastfeeding, while urging public and private organisations to adopt baby-friendly initiatives in workplaces.
He said: “We also need to provide creches and an enabling environment for breastfeeding mothers who work, to allow them to continue to breastfeed their children. Commencing and revitalising the revised Baby Friendly Initiative in facilities, workplaces, and communities in Nigeria will help in this regard.
“Paid paternity leave will also help to ensure the full participation of both parents in the early moments of the child, making it easier for a mother to exclusively breast feed.”