As Nigeria joins as signatory to initiatives that protect, promote and support Infant and Young Child Feeding, IYCF, the Minister of Health, Professor Issac Adewole has disclosed that the four months maternity leave granted breastfeeding mothers would be extended to six months as a way of government’s commitment to encouraging exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria.
Adewole made this disclosure yesterday in Abuja at the launch of the 2016 Lancet series on Breastfeeding and High-level Policy Dialogue for Promoting Breastfeeding for National Development in Nigeria.
The minister said, “Role of breastfeeding is important for us; everybody should become an advocate of exclusive breastfeeding. To give our commitment in the ministry, we set in motion example by extending maternity leave from four months to six months,” adding that “with this we will produce a generation of brilliant Nigerians.
“Adequate nutritional practices which begin with breastfeeding is the best and normal way of providing newborns, infants and young children with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information and the support of their family, the health care system, and society at large.”
He said, “Exclusive breastfeeding is the foundation for human building. Optimal breastfeeding practices, which include timely initiation of breastfeeding within 30 minutes of delivery, exclusive breastfeeding of 0-six months with only breast milk, no other milks, solid or semi-solid foods and not even giving baby water until the sixth completed month has proven great impact to health, education, economic returns to the child, family, community and nation at large, adding that even when infant is exposed to HIV-infested, malnourished or any sick mother, baby can be exclusively breastfed with enough quality and quantity breast milk through the support of the spouse, household, community and health system, the minister said.
He enjoined Nigerians to join in protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding by putting baby to breast within 30 minutes of delivery to avail colostrum, the first thick yellowish milk as immediate natural immunisation, give baby only breast milk not even water for first six months of life, stop other milks, fluids, foods, no glucose or herbal drinks not even water in the first 6 months, Breastfeed more frequently during and after illness; continue breastfeeding till 2 years or beyond, Feed baby with expressed breast milk in a clean cup and give mother enough to eat and drink to satisfy her hunger and thirst.
The permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Amina Shamaki disclosed that Nigeria was among the 11 African countries identified in the Global Hunger Index 2014 as having “alarming” food and hunger situations.
Shamaki said that breastfeeding was the gold-start and building block for human capital development that commences immediately after birth, noting that adequate nutrition throughout infancy and early childhood was fundamental to the development of the child to full potential.
“70 percent brain development occurs during pregnancy and 30 percent within the second year in a child’s life.
“This indeed calls for urgent action on optimal IYCF practices whose foundation is laid by early initiation, exclusive breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding till baby is two years or beyond with adequate age-specific minimum acceptable diets that comprises of minimum meal frequently and variety of food groups consumed by the baby. This averts irreversible growth faltering and vulnerability in cognitive development.”
She stressed that with the partnership of bilateral-multilateral agencies like Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation keep crying out that it is only when optimal nutritional practices commence with appropriate breastfeeding can the developmental milestones from conception to two years of a child’s life be attained.

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