Breastfeeding: UNICEF seeks six months’ maternity leave for nursing mothers

The federal and state governments have been urged, as a matter of priority, to  enact laws  granting six months maternity leave to nursing mothers to enable them   time to practise breastfeeding.

United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), at a one-day zonal media dialogue to commemorate 2021 World Breastfeeding Week held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State,  stressed the importance of exclusive breastfeeding to the  child  from birth to the next six months (zero water)  and even up to two years.

This, according to Mrs. Ngozi Onuorah, Nutrition Specialist, UNICEF Rivers Field Office, is critical to the long term health and well-being of the mother and child.

The media dialogue, with theme: ‘Protect breastfeeding, a shared responsibility’, drew participants from Abia, Delta, Rivers and Akwa Ibom states which  dwelt primarily on issues relating to prospects and progress of breastfeeding initiative in Nigeria.

It also examined  how the media could support advocacy in order to improve implementation of breastfeeding policies action plan vis-a-vis commitments by stakeholders, including media practitioners.

Giving an overview of the breastfeeding initiative in the country, Mrs Onuoha said  many working  mothers go through stress while breastfeeding, a situation she said, called for adequate time review, to  at least, six months’ vacation to allow them  sufficient time to breastfeed.

The nutrition expert  said as part of advocacy goals, there is the need to raise the visibility of breastfeeding as a foundation of child survival, secure financial resources for national breastfeeding programmes, strengthen political commitment and ultimately contribute towards building a social movement in which breastfeeding is a social norms.

She said  failure or refusal to give  babies  breast milk  amounted not only to denying  them fundamental human rights but also a sin against God.

According to her,  breastmilk  had been prepared by God for over a period of nine months until the baby was born.

She counselled mothers and fathers and indeed, all Nigerians,  including the media to take proactive  interest in talking about healthy children through promotion of exclusive breastfeeding.

Head of Nutrition Division, Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Health, Dr Victor Bassey went spiritual in his presentation by quoting Lamentations 4:3-6, Genesis 2:5-7, and 1Samuel 1:23 to underscore the importance of breastfeeding.

Bassey  condemned the use of baby food from other mammals, saying “some of the organs of children  that use baby food do not develop well.

“The rising cases of sickness, kidney failure, abnormal behaviours, among others were as a result of  children being fed with baby food’’

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