The Nutrition Specialist of the United Nations Child’s Fund, (UNICEF) Nigeria, Mrs Ada Ezeogu, has insisted on the practice of exclusive breastfeeding for at least two years of birth.
She said that not even water should be given to new-borns until after six months as the breast milk contains 80 per cent water as well as other nutrients a child needs for growth.
Ezeogu made the statement during a Media Dialogue on Child Malnutrition held in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Citing the recently released 2015 National Nutrition and Health Survey (NNHS) statistics on child malnutrition, Ezeogu disclosed that improper breastfeeding contributed to over 125 out of 1000 deaths of children under five years in Nigeria in 2015, while 14 and four per cent of children between six and 11 months continue to suffer from global and severe acute malnutrition.
Enjoining breastfeeding mothers not to administer any supplement including water to new-borns, she said, “exclusive breastfeeding has the potential to save more children’s lives than any other preventive intervention.
“An estimated 13 per cent of child deaths could be averted if 90 per cent of mothers exclusively breastfed their infants for the first six months of life. If the same proportion of mothers provided adequate and timely complementary feeding for their infants from six to 24 months, a further six per cent of child deaths could be prevented.
“Breastfed children have at least six times greater chance of survival in the early months than non-breastfed children. An exclusively breastfed child is 14 times less likely to die in the first six months than a non-breastfed child, and breastfeeding drastically reduces deaths from acute respiratory infection and diarrhoea, two major child killer diseases.”
She also said that “breast milk provides all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals an infant needs for growth for the first six months, and no other liquid or food are needed. Breast milk carries antibodies from the mother that helps combat disease for the infant.
“The act of breast feeding stimulates proper growth of the mouth and jaw, and secretion of hormones for digestion and satiety. Breast feeding creates special bond between mother and baby and the interaction between the mother and child during breastfeeding has positive impacts for life, in terms of stimulation, behaviour, speech, sense of wellbeing and security and how the child relates to other people.
Breast feeding lowers risk of chronic conditions later in life, such as obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, childhood asthma and childhood leukaemias. Breastfed infants do better on intelligence and behaviour tests than formula-fed babies.