Breastfeeding is one of the effective ways to ensure child health and survival.
Infant feeding is an important determinant of a child’s well-being; however, the practice of exclusive breastfeeding over the years is declining despite efforts at all levels to improve it.
World Health Organization, states that breast milk is the ideal food for newborns and infants, providing all the nutrients they need for healthy development, including antibodies that protect infants from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and Pneumonia.
According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, and United Nations International Children Emergency Fund, UNICEF, Exclusive breastfeeding is the feeding of an infant with only breast milk for a period of 6 months without any additional food or water.
Colostrum, which is the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy, is recommended by World Health Organisation, as the perfect food for newborn feeding that should be initiated within the first hour after birth.
Of utmost importance is the timely initiation of breastfeeding practices within 30 minutes of delivery.
Research indicates that breastfeeding improves brain development and could lead to better academic performance and productivity, later in life.
It is, therefore highly recommended that all mothers should exclusively breastfeed their children for the first six months of life, and after that, a supplemented breastfeeding can be given for one, two or more years.
Early and Exclusive breastfeeding is widely regarded as an important intervention that reduces neonatal, infant and child mortality which remains a basis for child survival strategies.
It also promotes sensory and cognitive development and protects infant against infectious and chronic diseases.
According to the 2014 National Nutrition Survey, only 25 per cent of babies were exclusively breastfed from zero to six months of age and approximately 7 million children are born in Nigeria every year.
Some of the challenges confronting breastfeeding mothers include in conducive work environment, illiteracy, poor latching, low milk supply and sore nipples.
It is in realization of the numerous benefits of breastfeeding that 1st to 7th August every year has been designated as Breastfeeding Week globally.
This year’s theme, “Breastfeeding; Foundation for Life”, recognizes the importance of breastfeeding to a baby’s future, As we know that the right nutrition has a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn and develop.
Without mincing words, it is important for nursing mothers to consume balanced diet since what they eat reflects in the breast milk the children take.
In order, to sustain a continuous breastfeeding, the practice should be traditionally supported by the family, community leaders, trained health workers, lactation consultants, friends and partners.
The Federal government should make good it’s promise of extending maternity leave from three to six months, as this will encourage and enable nursing mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies.
Also, there should be workshop and seminars for health care professionals to upgrade their knowledge on child health care.
Above all, the media should enlighten and educate nursing mothers on the immense benefits of breastfeeding against formula based food.