Breastfeeding mothers have been told to be committed to exclusive breastfeeding practice for the benefit of their babies, themselves and the entire society.
The State Commissioner for Health, Dr Joseph Otumara, gave the charge in a statement to mark the 2014 World Breastfeeding Week celebration with the theme “Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal – for Life”.
Enumerating the benefits of breastfeeding, Dr Otumara said that a well breastfed child would have reduced risk of allergies, sudden death, enjoys the protection from Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM) adding that human breast milk contains all anti-infective substances which reduce the risk of diarrhea, respiratory tract and ear infections among children.
According to him, proper breastfeeding practice reduces risk of breast cancer among women, maternal blood loss in mothers after delivery and promotes uterine contraction, which he said quickens uterine involution, explaining further that it delays the onset of menstruation thus aiding child spacing and provides emotional bonding between mother and child.
He said the nation also benefits when mothers practice exclusive breastfeeding stressing that the waste disposal systems would not be over stretched by empty cans of substitute milk and that there would be increased productivity of the parents as well as less cost in terms of health services.
The Commissioner, quoting estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), disclosed that the poor attitude of many nursing mothers with little or no support from their husbands and other stakeholders have led to the death of 1.5 million children annually and a million others mentally impaired.
He explained further that over 3000 children below age five die from diarrhoea and other respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia due to the use of breast milk substitutes, feeding bottles and associated poor hygiene, adding that poor breastfeeding practice also results in the death of 21 percent of infants Nigeria.
He therefore advised nursing mothers and other members of the public to fully embrace the state government’s various free health care programmes of under-five, maternal health care services, rural health scheme, routine immunization, vitamin A supplementation among others, which he stressed were aimed at providing the people of the state particularly children and women with optimum health care services.
He said that activities to mark the weeklong celebration included prayers in churches and mosques, radio and TV discussions, rallies in major roads/streets in Sapele, Ogwashi-Uku and Ozoro, lectures, symposium and drama, saying the grand finale would feature baby show competition and award of prizes.
He commended the support of donor agencies such as UNICEF, WHO and other NGOs for their support to substantially reduce Under-5 and maternal deaths and to achieve the MDGs.
The World Breastfeeding Week was instituted by WHO and comes up between 1st and 7th August annually, but shifted this year in the State to October due to the emergency attention given to the Ebola Virus Disease.
*Churchill Oyowe (PRO), Delta state Ministry of Health, writes from Asaba