Stakeholders, on Monday, advocated for inclusion of breastfeeding in school curriculum to promote breastfeeding from girls’ early life.
The stakeholders made the call during the 2022 World Breastfeeding Week Ministerial Launch symposium in Abuja.
Sen. Ibrahim Oloreigbe, Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, said it was high time stakeholders partnered with the ministry of education to promote breastfeeding from school by including it in the curriculum from primary six to tertiary institution.
According to Oloreigbe, this will help girls to learn from that age that breastfeeding is important so that when they start having children, they would have imbibed the knowledge.
“This will be important to catch them young, and we will be able to sustain and meet the breastfeeding target in Nigeria. Once we start from secondary school, we have to in cooperate it in the universities and NYSC as well.
“This has become necessary because in spite of several years of celebrating world breastfeeding day and all the efforts, we are not making progress as we should.
“I think we need to ask ourselves the questions because the last data I saw put Nigeria’s exclusive breastfeeding at 29 per cent and we have a target of 25 per cent.
“I know we were 17 per cent before but now we have moved and the progress is slow.
“It means there are certain things we need to be doing that we are not doing and what I noticed, in particular, is that we breast feed generally in Nigeria but do we do exclusive breastfeeding as much?’’ he queried.
Oloriegbe, while advocating for the passage of law and implementation of six months’ maternity leave for mothers, also stressed the need to create enabling environment in work places, both in formal and informal sectors, to promote breastfeeding.
Mr Ifedilichukwu Innocent, Advocacy Campaign and Policy Manager/survive, Save the Children International, said the measure would aid the efforts at meeting the 50 per cent 2025 target of the World Health Assembly.
Innocent, who is also the Chairman, Steering Committee of CSSUNN, said that exclusive breastfeeding would protect the baby from infections, such as respiratory diseases and diarrhea.
According to him, it also has economic impact, especially on household income, creats better bond between the baby and the mother and enhances cognitive development for the baby.
“Proper education of the mothers and their caregivers/support systems on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding can encourage them to practise it.
“The objectives of this year’s theme are to inform, anchor, engage and galvanise action to support, promote and protect exclusive breastfeeding at individual and organisation levels.
“For breastfeeding to be successful, a mother needs a supportive environment at home, workplace and religious areas.
“Government should protect, promote and support breastfeeding by enforcing the breast milk marketing and substitute BMS code to end exploitative marketing of breast milk substitutes,” he said.
Innocent also called on employers to encourage exclusive breastfeeding by having corporate policies that would support it, provide conducive area for breastfeeding activities and prioritise maternal and paternal rights.
He called for establishment of crèches in work places to promote breastfeeding among nursing mothers.
Innocent said that there was need to set up mother and baby areas to ensure that mothers in refugee camps could receive advice, encouragement and counseling on infant feeding practices.
He called on the general public to share awareness about exclusive breastfeeding, be respectful to breastfeeding mothers in public and support breastfeeding mothers at home.
Innocent also called for sustenance of zero water campaign and awareness among professional groups, especially the health and nutrition stakeholders’ platforms and groups.
According to him, there is the need for full implementation of the multi-sectoral plan of action for food and nutrition.
He called for strengthening of efforts to perfect the creation of nutrition department and budget lines for nutrition activities in line ministries.
Dr Florence Uchendu, representing Nutrition Society of Nigeria, stressed the need to give babies breast milk within the first hour of delivery.
Uchendu said that this would help in eliminating some diseases, boost immune system, accelerate survival and reduce infant mortality.