By Uchenna Ugwu
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) say that they are rallying supports for breastfeeding as the first pathway to preserving a healthier planet.
The Nutritional Officer of UNICEF in Ebonyi, Mr Cyprain Ogbonna, gave the encouragement to people on Saturday in Abakaliki during an event to mark the starting of the 2020 celebration of World Breastfeeding week.
The theme of the World Breastfeeding Week 2020 is “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet”.
The event is marked every year between Aug. 1 and Aug. 7 to raise awareness on the importance of breastfeeding for mothers and infants.
Ogbonna said that adequate breastfeeding had, over the years , prevented several childhood diseases and brought lifelong positive benefits associated with child spacing.
He said that other benefits include: risk reduction for some breast and ovarian cancers as well as hypertension.
He described breast milk as a nature-given-first food that needed to be preserved for its undebatable benefits to a mother and her baby.
He added that the milk was a critical part of a sustainable food system.
He said that it would be best to start breastfeeding within one hour of birth and exclusively done for the first six months of life, after which mothers should introduce appropriate complementary foods to her baby for two years and beyond.
He stated that misuse of breast milk substitutes should be condemned.
He advised that breastfeeding should be maintained, but hygienically done during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Ogbonna said: “Mothers are recommended to breastfeed their child or children within 30 minutes of birth.
“While mothers doing exclusive breastfeeds go for the first six months of life.
“Also mother or caregiver timely introduces complementary feeding based on local food products at six months while continuing breastfeeding up to two years and beyond,” he said.
Also, the Nutrition Manager of UNICEF in Enugu, Hanifa Namusoke, said that she had championed the cause in Ebonyi to increase the valve and improve the well being of mother and child.
Namusoke said in line with the theme, WHO and UNICEF called on governments to protect and promote a critical component of breastfeeding support.
“Breast milk is complete for a healthier planet and that is why WHO and UNICEF recommend optimal infant and young child feeding practices with emphasis on early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth,” Namusoke said.