By Ikenna Osuoha
Some nutritionists and stakeholders in the country have urged employers of labour to promote baby-friendly environment by providing time and space for breastfeeding mothers.
Dr Hajara Kera, Director Public Health, Ministry of Health, Kaduna State, made the call at the 2021 Nutrition Policy Dialogue with theme: Strengthening Workplace policies for Exclusive Breastfeeding in Abuja on Thursday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the dialogue was organised by Nigeria Health Watch (NHW) in commemoration of 2021 World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) with the theme; Protecting Breastfeeding: A shared Responsibility.
Kera said that conducive environment for breastfeeding was vital in making the mother more relaxed and protected in giving the baby breast milk.
She said that the Kaduna State government in accordance with the governor’s policy on promotion of breastfeeding had established crèches in schools for mothers to breastfeed.
Mrs Chito Nelson, Head, Department of Nutrition, Federal Ministry of Finance described breastfeeding as the only essential food for a baby in the first six months.
Nelson, who called on employers of labour, especially Federal Ministry of Labour, to support six months of breastfeeding, said it was necessary for healthy nation.
She expressed the determination of the Ministry of Finance in promoting breastfeeding by allocating fund for the sustenance of the national nutrition policy.
Nelson called for synergy of all to promote and protect breastfeeding by making available time and space for breastfeeding mothers in their work places.
“We will always work with Ministry of Labour in the promotion of breastfeeding.
“It is wrong to force a lactating mother to return to work after 12 weeks of leave,” she said.
Ms Nemat Hajeebhoy, Chief of Section, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), called for domestication of UNICEF’s six months’ prescription for breastfeeding.
Hajeebhoy said that such support would not only prevent maternal mortality but curtail absenteeism at work.
According to her, when we tell a breastfeeding mother to be productive, we have to support her to breastfeed up to six months exclusively and continue to 24 months.
Ms Kemi Agbaoye, Senior Programme Manager, Nigeria Health Watch (NHW) earlier emphasised the benefits of breastfeeding not only to the mother and child but the nation at large.
Agbaoye explained that exclusive breastfeeding was key to preventing infant morbidity and mortality.
She said that it was beneficial to the nation’s economy having reinforced the country’s future labour force.
“Pneumonia, diarrhoea and other major causes of infant mortality are prevented by exclusive breastfeeding.
“According to International Labour Organisation, lack of support in work places is one of the major setbacks on exclusive breastfeeding.
“The more time you have with your baby the more time you have to breastfeed your children,” Agbaoye added.
Mrs Vivianne Ihekweazu, Managing Director, Nigeria Health Watch (NHW) remphasised the imperatives of breastfeeding in the mother and the child, calling on employers to make policies that would promote and protect breastfeeding. (NAN)