.. Marks 2019 World breastfeeding Week
THE import of feeding babies with only breast milk for six months without water, otherwise known as exclusive breastfeeding in raising healthier and stronger children can never be over emphasised. Apart from improving the health of babies, it is estimated that increased breastfeeding could avert 20,000 maternal deaths each year due to breast cancer.
According to research, one of the biggest impediments to achieving a high adherent rate of mothers who breastfeed their children exclusively in Nigeria, especially in the rural areas, is often the disbelief or lack of knowledge of the benefits of a healthy breast milk to infants.
A recent health survey shows that only 17% of babies in Nigeria and 24% in Anambra State are exclusively breastfed for the recommended six months, which is below the global target of 50%.
In line with WHO, UNICEF and other partners’ policy of promoting the importance of family-friendly policies to enable breastfeeding and help parents nurture and bond with their children early in life, Anambra State Primary Health Care Development Agency(ASPHCDA), in collaboration with Anambra State Ministry of Health, Thursday, flagged off the 2019 World Breastfeeding Week celebration with theme “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding Now and For the Future”.
The flag-off , which was held at Referral Health Center, Ozubulu, Ekwusigo Local Government Area, attracted nursing and expectant mothers, including government officials and major stakeholders in the health sector, even as mothers were put through a graphic description of the huge health advantages of breastfeeding their babies in line with the recommended pattern.
Mothers present also used the opportunity to ask diverse questions on areas concerning breastfeeding which they found confusing or difficult to understand. Most of them were surprised, but visibly happy when they were told that a nursing mother can still breastfeed her child even while pregnant for another baby.
It was also emphasised that while breastfeeding creates a strong bond between a baby and the mother, exclusive breastfeeding aids family planning, strengthens the child’s brain and body developments, and immunizes the baby from certain diseases.
Speaking at the event, Permanent Secretary, Anambra State Ministry of Health, Dr John Ndibe, who flagged off the week on behalf of the Commissioner for Health, Dr Vincent Okpala, made it clear that men also have a responsibility of supporting their wives to feed well, before pregnancy, during pregnancy, and after childbirth, to keep her healthy enough to go through her time breastfeeding the baby exclusively.
He said the Anambra State Primary Health Care Development Agency Law, which instituted the agency, the recent establishment of the Anambra State Health Insurance Scheme, and the refurbishment of health care centers in different parts of Anambra State, which were achieved under the present administration, showed that Governor Obiano understands the ultimate essence of quality and affordable health care for every onye Anambra.
The Executive Secretary, Anambra State Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Chioma Ezenyimulu, stated that it was important for mothers to understand the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, which must be kicked off with early initiation, that is, within one hour of a child’s birth, adding that breastfeeding prevents infants from diarrhea and respiratory tract infections, reduces the risk of mothers developing breast and ovarian cancer and heart diseases.
The Transition Committee Chairman of Ekwusigo LGA, Mr Austin Enendu, who was represented by the Supervisory Counsellor for Health in the Council, Sir Sylvester Nnubia, urged the mothers to take the practice of exclusive breastfeeding as a paramount child raising principle that helps the child, the mother, the family and the larger society.
The Anambra State Breastfeeding Coordinator, Mrs Joy Ebere-Ndu, who educated the women on the import of exclusive breastfeeding, also cleared some wrong notions of breastfeeding, and spoke about the consistency of her unit in educating nursing mothers on the lasting health benefits of breastfeeding their children exclusively.
According to her, breast milk contains 88 per cent water and it is not advisable to give them water.
She urged early initiation, which she described as giving breast within an hour of a child’s birth.“Early initiation of breast milk helps to open the baby’s stomach, preventing stomach aches in babies, as well as preventing diarrhoea and respiratory tract infections…
“Breastfeed your babies for 15 – 20 minutes for them to get breast nutrients and also avoid feeding of the child only with water.”
Mr Felix Okocha of the UNICEF, a partner of the Anambra State Government, praised the efforts of Anambra State Government in promoting quality and affordable health for its residents, and said that the United Nations’ organ remained interested in entrenching lasting health and child support policies that put children and mothers first in vast areas of which health care is paramount.
At the event, mothers whose babies were examined to have been exclusively breastfed were also presented with gifts, as a way of encouraging them, and spurring other mothers to do the same.
World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year, from first to seventh August, to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the globe.
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