An increase in number of children breastfed in Nigeria could save lives of more than 820,000 children under the age of five, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has declared.
In the same report by UNICEF on “Progress of Breastfeeding in Nigeria” made available to newsmen by its Communication Officer (Advocacy, Media and External Relations), Mrs. Ijeoma Onuoha-Ogwe, it was revealed that: “More breastfeeding could prevent the death of 20,000 women a year from breast cancer… lead to improvement in birth spacing, reduction in women’s risk of diabetes and may reduce rates of ovarian cancer.”
The UNICEF nutrition programme in Nigeria supports actions that focus on the first 1,000 days of life, including pregnancy in high-risk areas.
The report also said: “Children who are breastfed for longer periods have lower rates of infectious disease and death than children who are breastfed for shorter periods or were never breastfed.
“Longer periods of breastfeeding are associated with reduction in a child’s risk of being overweight or obese. Breastfeeding is associated with an IQ increase of three to four points. Successful breastfeeding depends on support – from families, communities, health care providers, employers and governments.”
Work is one of the leading barriers to breastfeeding and contributes to mother’s decision to stop the practice early, the report said, adding that, “a study on breastfeeding indicated that interventions such as maternity leave, workplace support and employment status of mothers led to a 30 per cent increase in breastfeeding rates.” Health care professionals influence breastfeeding practices at critical moments. However, many lack the knowledge and skill required to support women who want to breastfeed. Community-based interventions such as including group counseling and education increased timely breastfeeding initiation by 86 per cent.
The report further showed: “Exclusive breastfeeding is particularly uncommon in the North West geopolitical zone, where the practice is four times less common than in the North Central and South West zones.”