A Nutritionist, Prof. Ngozi Nnam, has advocated six months maternity leave for nursing mothers to enable them carry out exclusive breastfeeding of their babies for the period.
Nnam, a Professor of Community and Public Health Nutrition at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, gave the advice in an interview with Newsverge in Abuja on Tuesday.
She also urged the Federal Government to approve six months maternity leave for nursing mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies before going back to work.
The nutritionist said exclusive breastfeeding could be encouraged among the nursing mothers, especially working class mothers through “nutrition education.’’
“Mothers should be given nutrition talk on breastfeeding, the benefits; to the child; mother; family and the nation at large through all available means.
“The talk should be given through all available means such as antenatal visits, incidental discussions, women’s meetings in churches and mosques, town hall meetings, men’s meetings.
“The benefits will encourage mothers to continue with exclusive breastfeeding, even if there are challenges.
“The talk should also include how to overcome the challenges of breastfeeding.
“It helps them to overcome challenges such as correct positioning of the baby for breastfeeding and correct attachment of the baby to the nipple.
“It will also help them to overcome challenges for the baby to empty one nipple before sucking the other one, frequency of breastfeeding and how to improve milk production, among others,’’ Nnam said.
She also urged that Crèche should be put in place in all offices and work places to enable working class mothers practice exclusive breastfeeding during office hours.
The professor, however, noted that management of many work places are yet to implement the international policy on Crèche.
The international policy says any employer that has more than 50 people should provide a crèche where a woman can always take care of the child and breastfeed him or her on demand.
Nnam, who was the immediate past President, Nutrition Society of Nigeria said breastfeeding could help to lower the incidence of breast cancer in women.
“This is because women who breastfeed have less exposure to estrogen which has been shown to precipitate some types of breast cancer.
“Breastfeeding could also make breast cells more resistant to mutations that can cause cancer. These benefits could help encourage women to breastfeed,’’ she said.
Nnam, however, said that lifestyle, including diet could precipitate cancer and called on women to eat adequate food.
“Women can prevent cancer by eating adequate diet. It is easy to eat adequate diet.
“All that is required is to pick at least a food item from the different food groups in adequate proportion in a meal.
“The food groups are roots, tubers and legumes, vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, poultry, milk, fats and oil.’’