To address the greatest barrier to exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria and meet the 50 percent global target, the United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF) has said nursing mothers should exclude giving water to babies for the first six months.
At a two-day media dialogue on breastfeeding at Ibadan, the Oyo State capital by UNICEF in partnership with Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Abuja and fully funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), Mrs Ada Ezeogu, a nutrition specialist said “the target of 50 percent of exclusive breastfeeding is achievable in Nigeria.
“If you look at the pattern, most nursing mothers’ breastfeed but the problem we have is many of them also give water.
“We can change their orientation which requires behaviour change by giving them more information and the skill to breastfeed properly which basically giving them the skills on how to position and attach the baby properly. Provide these mothers the help they need at home so that they drop the water.
“Also get them to understand that breast milk itself has over 88 percent of water therefore they do not need water even in a climate like Nigeria where sometimes it can be pretty hot. The breast milk contain enough water to meet the water requirement of the baby.”
Ezeogu added that if mothers can stop giving water to babies from zero to six months of life, “we can indeed achieve much more than 50 percent and then derive the benefit of exclusive breastfeeding which includes 13 percent reduction of Infant mortality if 90 percent of the population would do exclusive breastfeeding.”
The Minister of Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in his goodwill message said the need to propagate breastfeeding in Nigerian have become urgent and important not only for government but also for key partners and stakeholders.
The minister added that there is need for all to rise up for the propagation of early breastfeeding as it could be the difference between life and death, stressing the need for all stakeholders to collaborate to advocate on how best to address the issue.
Also lending his voice, the UNICEF Chief Field Officer in Akure, Mr Tejinder Sadhu, said that exclusive breastfeeding has the potential to save more children’s lives than any other preventive intervention.
He added that children who are breastfed have at least six times greater chance of survival in the early months than non- breastfed children and an exclusively breastfed child is 14 times less likely to die in the first six months than a non- breastfed child.
Sadhu further said that an estimated 13 percent of child deaths could be averted if 90 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their infants for the first six months of life, adding that if the same portion of mother provided adequate and timely complementary feeding for their infants from six to 24 months, a further six percent of child deaths could be prevented.