Professor Tola Atinmo, Department of Human Nutrition, University of Ibadan, has identified several interrelated factors responsible for poor breastfeeding practices in Nigeria.
Atinmo made the observation in Lagos while speaking at the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) 2019 Breastfeeding Week.
He listed ignorance, culture, poor capacity of some health workers, peer group, modernity and social life, among other factors hindering breastfeeding practice in the country.
He explained that some mother’s ignorance of the benefit of early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding, especially those who did not attend antenatal clinic, was responsible for the poor practice.
“Where mothers are knowledgeable but not strong willed the influence of cultural or traditional or members of the community may not allow optimal breastfeeding practice.
Therefore, it is common to see women discarding the yellowish milk that comes from the breast in early days of delivery.
Some mothers introduce other liquids and some foods on the belief that breastfeeding is not adequate for the infant,” he said.
According to him, another major factor is the poor capacity of some health workers, to give necessary support to mothers to practice optimal breastfeeding.
He said that it was common in Nigeria to see some babies being introduced to other foods beside breast milk, even before the mother is discharged from hospital on pretence that mother is not lactating.
Atinmo said “when we fail, everyone loses; families, community and nation’’.
The don said that reports from the Federal Ministry of Health and UNICEF on the economic consequences of poor breastfeeding in Nigeria, showed annual loss of more than US$438 billion.
He said that in optimal breastfeeding practices, everyone wins, therefore scaling up optimal breastfeeding is a task that must be achieved.
The NAWOJ Chairperson, Adeola Ekine, said that research had shown that breastfeeding provides first immunisation through colostrum, especially in the first six months.
Ekine said that breastfeeding was clean and safe for infants and as such protects them against diseases resulting from dirty water, food, teats and bottles.
According to her, statistics of mothers who have embraced exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria was still unimpressive, according to standard set by WHO.
The theme for this year’s breastfeeding week is: “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding”.