By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
A policy on exclusive breastfeeding that will enable collaboration between government and communities in promoting the culture, and emancipate women from ignorance on the importance of breastfeeding has been advocated.
Breastfeeding is the main form of preventive medicine because it contains every nutrient children need for early growth and development, Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network/GAIN said recently in Lagos.
The advocacy group pointed out that it is regrettable that half a million children die of malnutrition in Nigeria every year.
“50 per cent of children’s death has malnutrition as the underlying factor, Ibiso Ivy King-Harry said recently at a nutrition event in Lagos where she represented her boss, Uduak Igbeku.
Speaking on the topic, “Communicating Nutrition Messages To Stakeholders,” King-Harry disclosed that 33 per cent of under-5 children in Nigeria are stunted due to malnourishment which may be attributable to inadequate breastfeeding.
Other child development and nutrition experts have alsi been disseminating information on on the dangers of poor breastfeeding by Nigerian mothers, stressing that breast milk is the best milk for babies because it has all the nutrients children need to grow and develop and enjoy a healthy living.
For example, a nutritionist, Mr. Sunday Okoronkwo, expressed concern about the traditional belief that witches and wizards are the cause of health problems bedeviling children. “Unfortunately, in African setting,” he asserted, “the problem caused by inadequate nutrition is blamed on witchcraft.”
Though he agreed that Nigerian women breastfeed their babies, he criticized them for adding other meals within the period of exclusive breastfeeding.
He therefore advised mothers that itbis important to exclusively breastfeed their babies.
According to him, “Over 70 per cent of Nigerian children are breastfed but the breastfeeding is combined with water, pap and other meals.”
He declared that “fore milk is water,” and the secondary milk flow from the mother’s breast “is the food the baby needs Your child does not need water in the first six months. Exclusive breastfeeding is important because it prevents some childhood diseases.”
To the mothers who refrain from giving their babies exclusive breastfeeding because they fear their breast will sag as a result, the nutrition expert said: “Whether you breastfeed, wether you don’t breastfeed, when the time comes the breast will fall. So it is wrong for a mother to not adequately breastfeed herbasby.”
He also warned against ‘bottlefeeding’ babies, saying it can cause the baby to contract infection.
Okoronkwo pointed out that ignorance denies families to have sound knowledge they need about nutrition. He therefore urged government to collaborate with communities to educate the hard-t-reach, under-served and uninformed rural people. “Ignorance is the major challenge,” he stressed.