Civil Society Scaling-Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) an NGO, has urged nursing mothers to ensure they judiciously use their maternity leave to effectively and exclusively breastfeed their babies.
Mrs Beatrice Eluaka, Executive Secretary of the organisation gave the advice in a telephone interview in Abuja.
She was reacting to the six months maternity leave declared by the Kaduna State Government.
Eluaka said that the six months maternity leave recently declared by Governor Nasir El-Rufai was purposely to enable babies to develop well and grow to their full potential.
She encouraged nursing mothers in Kaduna and Lagos States that have approved six months maternity leave to use it for the purpose it was meant for.
According to her, the period is meant for nursing mothers to stay at home and breastfeed their babies, not to engage in other chores like trading or taking up another employment.
“I just want to encourage our mothers who are breastfeeding, particularly in Kaduna and Lagos States, to make effective use of this opportunity of six months maternity leave for the purpose for which it is meant.
“It is meant for mothers to stay at home and then breastfeed their babies, not a leave of absence from work just for you to take up another employment or business.
“Women or mothers should bear it in mind that the reason for the maternity leave is for babies to develop well and grow to their full potentials.
“Today’s baby is tomorrow’s leader and therefore we must give the baby the best start in life,” she said.
Eluaka commended Kaduna State government for approving six months maternity leave for nursing mothers, describing it as a welcome development.
The executive secretary said six months maternity leave was long overdue, adding that the organisation and other stakeholders had been looking forward to this kind of response.
She, however, urged other states and the Federal Government, who were yet to approve the six months maternity leave, to follow suit.
Eluaka, who frowned at the low rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the country, attributed it to non-adoption of six months maternity leave for nursing mothers.
She noted that the processes of ensuring mothers practice six months exclusive breastfeeding started in the 80s, but decried that till date, only two states had adopted the policy.
According to her, this is not healthy for the nation, because if a mother is given six months maternity leave, it will go a long way to improve her productivity, thereby contributing maximally to nation building.
“We started the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding before Ghana and now Ghana has moved on to 60 per cent, while we are still at 23 per cent.
“Looking at the available statistics from when we started the process in 80s, our exclusive breastfeeding rate has been dwindling from 2 per cent to 13 per cent, 17 per cent and then in 2006 it went back.
“The rate has been fluctuating, well I am glad with the recent report that it has increased from 17 per cent to 23 per cent.
“We need to increase our efforts and commitment in other states to see that all states approve theirs, because it is the only way to help working mothers and ensure their brain is well structured.
“When a mother is working, she has divided attention if she is not with her baby; even after expressing breast milk, you are not sure whoever is taking care of the child is giving the child the expressed breast milk.
“Hence, we are saying allow mothers to do six months exclusive breastfeeding and the only way they can do that is to stay at home six months and ensure the baby gets the best start in life.
“We are also pushing for six months maternity leave due to the fact that a child who is exclusively breastfed is more likely to develop better than that child that is not exclusively breastfed “Eluaka said.
Recall that Gov. El-Rufai in his inaugural speech on May 29 announced six months maternity leave for civil servants in the state.
He explained that the initiative was to ensure that children were adequately cared for, well-fed and receive all the nutrients they require within the first six months of their lives.