Towards applying innovative and proven approaches to scale up Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) practices in Nigeria, Alive and Thrive, has urged health workers in Lagos State to educate expectant mothers on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life without a drop of water.
The Non- Governmental Organisation( NGO), also is calling for early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour after birth, stressing that such infant feeding practices would help in reducing the burden of child malnutrition in the country.
Besides exclusive breastfeeding and early initiation of breastfeeding, Alive & Thrive also wants mothers to introduce their babies to adequate complementary foods that are home-grown and rich in vitamins and minerals after six months of exclusive breastfeeding.
Speaking at a two-day Workshop for the development of IYCF Social and Behavioural Change Communication(SBCC) strategy for Lagos State, SBCC Advisor for Alive and Thrive Project, Kawu Auwalu, said the strategy was aimed at promoting optimal infant feeding practices through a behavioural change approach at the family, community and institutional levels.
The workshop was organised by Alive and Thrive Project in Lagos recently to domesticate the National SBCC strategy for IYCF in Nigeria 2016-2020 in the state.
Giving insight into the objectives of the National IYCF SBCC stragegy, Auwalu said: “The goal of IYCF communication for development of SBCC strategy of Nigeria (2016-2020) is to promote IYCF practices in order to contribute to the improvement of nutritional status, growth, development, health and survival of infants and young children through optimal breastfeeding and complementary feeding,as well as other related maternal interventions.”
Auwalu said health workers have the responsibility of providing appropriate information to mothers on the right infant feeding practices especially on exclusive breastfeeding, early initiation of breastfeeding after birth and complementary feeding after six months of exclusive breastfeeding.
He explained: “Early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months will help the child to be healthy and contribute meaningfully to the development of the society.
Scientifically, it has been proven that an infant that is exclusively breastfed or put to breastmilk as early as possible will have a better cognitive development. The situation about infant feeding in Nigeria in the first 1000 days is very critical.”
Auwalu said Alive and Thrive Project is funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and managed by FHI 360, adding that the project was specifically designed to support behavioural change, practices on infant feeding in Nigeria.
According to him, Lagos is one of the states where the intervention is being implemented across all sectors,noting that the project has various components including advocacy and community activities that would promote behaviour change and enable members of the community take informed decision on infant feeding practices.
“We are here to support government of Nigeria and the Lagos State government in promoting optimal infant practices”, he reiterated.
SBCC, according to the Federal Ministry of Health is the social ecological model process that employs a systematic, planned and evidence-based strategy for engaging community to understand and solve their own problems and to accelerate behaviour and social change for optimal healthy lifestyle.
Also speaking, State Team Lead, FHI 360 Alive & Thrive Project, Dr. Uche Ralph-Opara, said the strategy when implemented in Lagos State, would boost infant and young child feeding practices in the state.
“We have a target to improve on the statistics of infant feeding in Lagos State by 2020. We hope to achieve this with various interventions we plan to put in place.
We want to improve on exclusive breastfeeding, promote early initiation of babies to breastmilk within an hour of birth and also promote dietary diversity after six months of exclusive breastfeeding, where the baby is getting balanced diet such as animal and plant proteins”, she said.
In her remarks, the State Nutrition Officer, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Olubunmi Ibrahim, commended Alive & Thrive for sharing its vision of a healthy society with the state government.
She said: “We are committed to improving the nutritional status of infant and young children in the state and we appreciate the support of Alive and Thrive. Presently, exclusive breastfeeding rate for Lagos State is 51.8 percent. We are aiming to achieve 65 percent by 2020.”