Nigeria determined to achieve 100% exclusive breastfeeding by 2025

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The Federal Ministry of Health has reiterated its commitment toward achieving 100 per cent exclusive breastfeeding by 2025 in line with global target on Food and Nutrition Policy.

Mrs Chimay Thompson, Assistant Director, Nutrition Division, Family Health Department in the ministry, gave the assurance in Abuja.

She said that the government had put in place policies and regulations that would promote exclusive breastfeeding.

“Nigeria can get up to 100 per cent based on Food and Nutrition Policy, by 2025. Nigeria is a signatory to UN policies, including Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child feeding as well as the International Regulation Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitute. We have the National Policy on Food and Nutrition which was revised in 2016 and launched by the First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari, who became the National Nutrition Ambassador. In 2017, the Minister of Health launched the National Social and Behavioural Change Communication Strategy, which enabled us to communicate with different communities to know factors that are mitigating against optimal breastfeeding practices. All these have been put in place to create an enabling environment and to develop strategies that will support and encourage our mothers to practise exclusive breastfeeding optimally,’’ she said.

Thompson said the ministry would intensify campaign on exclusive breastfeeding and young child feeding practices in health facilities, communities and workplaces as well as train healthcare professionals.

She said that returning to work before six months was a key barrier to exclusive breastfeeding while limited or nonexistent maternity protection policies prevented many women from having time and space to breastfeed exclusively.

Thompson said that many women in Nigeria were part of labour force, with a substantial number in formal workforce.

“The ministry has helped to increase maternity leave for public servants from 12 weeks to 16 weeks; the Minister of Labour and Employment, according to Abuja Breastfeeding Declaration, is considering an increase to 18 weeks. Community Infant and Young Child Feeding Guideline is available as health workers have been trained to promote and support universal breastfeeding coverage. This commences with early initiation of breast milk within one hour of delivery, exclusive breastfeeding till six months and then continued breastfeeding with complementary feeding till two years. The ministry has also launched Mobile Nutrition Programme through which messages are sent on phones and social platforms where people can communicate and have access to vital information on breastfeeding and nutrition. The government has also collaborated with the movie industry to promote exclusive breastfeeding, with various jingles on breastfeeding translated in different languages across the country,’’ she added.

Thomson further reiterated government’s commitment to prioritizing the actions as outlined in the Lancet Breastfeeding Series.

These, she said, include disseminating accurate information on the value of breastfeeding as a powerful intervention for health and development of women and children.

According to her, fostering positive social attitudes towards breastfeeding, reinforcing a breastfeeding culture and up-scaling and monitoring breastfeeding interventions, practices and trends are crucial for a healthy child.

She also called for regulation of marketing breast milk substitute.

She called for policy to ensure that maternity protection, workplace interventions and baby friendly initiative are implemented.

Bilkisu Pai