Exclusive Breast Feeding: USAID, BA-N to engage mothers in August meetings


The Breakthrough Action, Nigeria, a United States Agency for International Development - funded health partner in Nigeria, has revealed its plan to leverage on the Women's August meetings to promote exclusive breastfeeding in Ebonyi State.
The revelation was an outcome of a Press briefing held at the Ministry of health headquarters, Abakaliki on Monday, as part of events marking this year's World Breastfeeding Week.

Addressing newsmen at the event, the Ebonyi State Coordinator, Breakthrough Action, Nigeria, Chidimma Ukoha-Nwankwo, represented by the Program's Nutrition Focal person, Grace Sule, explained that supporting breastfeeding was the responsibility of all and sundries.

According to her, breastfeeding is one sure way of reducing malnutrition among infants in Nigeria, adding that the Breakthrough Action has lined up activities for the week aimed at drawing attention to the importance of exclusive breastfeeding.

Sule said: "The key message we have for this year's World breastfeeding week is that everyone should recognise his or her role and responsibility in protecting breastfeeding: from the government to the health system, the community and individuals.

"If we support mothers to initiate early breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding from 0 to 6 months, it will go a long way to reducing the malnutrition needs we have in the country.

"We have a lot of activities planned for this week, starting from community sensitization for pregnant women and lactating mothers in some Local government areas to community engagements with traditional rulers, religious leaders as well as various media sessions on radio and television.

"Also we will.leverage on the August meetings to also sensitize mothers on the importance of breastfeeding their child exclusively and early nutrition with the breast milk..."

Sule further revealed that the BA-N  would be targetting 60 pregnant and lactating women and over  70 persons including community and religious leaders for capacity building from Ebonyi and Izzi local government areas respectively.

In an earlier briefing, the State Commissioner for Health, Daniel Umezurike, represented by the acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Joseph Ekoh, maintained that over 170 countries, including Nigeria celebrate breastfeeding week from the 1st to 7th August annually as a baby friendly initiative.

He stressed that breast milk still remains the most cost effective yet complete nutrition for the baby's survival, healthier growth and development, noting that the celebration was aimed at offering the people every knowledge about the positive effect of breastfeeding, especially in promoting and supporting of exclusive breastfeeding which is a high impact intervention for ensuring child survival, growth and development.

Speaking on the theme for the year: “Supporting breastfeeding, a shared Responsibility”, Umezurike explained that it lays emphasis on the fact that breastfeeding offers the society not only improved health for children and mothers but also provide economic and environmental benefits.

He added that the slogan: "breastfeeding: Foundation of Life” entails that mothers should start breastfeeding their baby from the  1st day of birth exclusively for 6 months, then, up to 2 years and beyond for optimal growth and development.

The Commissioner further maintained that shared responsibility points to the  need for the  Ministry and its partner to train breastfeeding support groups, health workers, Breastfeeding mothers and pregnant women on the counselling, positioning/attachment of the babies for effective implementation of  breastfeeding to ensure good outcome.

Umezurike added: "Breast milk is highly essential as it contains a lot of nutrients that make baby healthier, and stronger. 

"Mother’s milk give the child every type of better nourishment to develop their health for better future as a well as  protect the child from diseases like diarrhea, pneumonia and neo-natal jaundice. 

"Breastfeeding is the pivot of child’s feeding. 

"Exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) will avert malnutrition even in emergency situations leading to better productivity, better socio-economic development and better child spacing, especially now that maternity leave has been extended  to 4 months in Ebonyi, as in other States of the federation.

"Again, breastfeeding milk still remains the safest, secure, optimal nutrition for the babies, and makes the world healthier, smarter and more equal."

Others who spoke at the event, including the State Nutrition Officer in the Ministry, Cyprian Ogbonna, discouraged the feeding of the baby with artificial milk and water as first food, emphasizing that such does not contain the colostrum of mother's milk which is very essential for the Child's wellbeing.

He advised mothers to continue to suckle their newly born babies even when breast milk delays to flow, stating that the practice would stimulate the glands to release breast milk.

Giving water or other foods to Babies at birth, according to Ogbonna,  negates the principle of exclusive breastfeeding.

Other health partners in the State who attended the briefing included USAID/Integrated Health Programme (IHP), Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team (AMURT), among others.

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