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Breastmilk, key to child growth and development- minister

The Minster of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole has reiterated the need for parents especially the nursing mothers to breastfeed their babies with breastmilk only within the 6 months of their birth to ensure their optimal growth and development.

In his key note address during the World Breastfeeding week with the theme “Sustaining Breastfeeding together” in Abuja the Minster noted, “breastfeeding has been proven to save lives, ensure good health, growth and development of a child.

” The benefits of unrestricted exclusive breastfeeding practice as initiated within an hour from birth result in ample milk production to sustain the infants and leads to preventable deaths in infants younger than 6 months. It also reduces infant mortality associated with common childhood illness like diarrhoea or pnuemonia and ensure quicker recovery from illness. The mother also benefits maximally in child spacing, reduction of ovarian and breast cancer, and ensuring rapid maternal weight loss after birth.’

The Minster further added, the habit of not giving infants only with breats milk in the first six months of life with no other liquids, drinks, semi- food or solid as advocated by the National Policy on Infant and Young Child Feeding has resulted in increasing number of death recorded among children in the country.

He further lamented “The exclusive breastfeeding rate as at today as shown only marginal increase from the very low rate of 2% in 1990 to 17% in 2013, and the current rate is 25% as reported in the 2014 National policy on Infant and Young Child Feeding.

“Today we join the rest of the word to retierate the need for optimal infant and Young Child Feeding practice to ensure preventable developmental milestones in the first 1,000 days of life and in accordance with the 1990 Innocenti Declaration, which affirms that breastfeeding protection, promotion and support is the cost effective method of feeding infants and young children. it is one of the effective proven strategies to combat malnutrition and other related conditions that contribute to infant and Young child morbidity and mortality.,”

Further findings revealed that breastfeeding also contribute to the health and well being of mothers,it help to space children, reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer above all, increases bond between mother and child health, promote close relationship between mother and child while helping in intellectual capacity development.

Dailytimes further research revealed that apart from the health benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, it’s economic benefits on human capital development and health system cannot over-emphasised.

According to the research each year, optimal Breastfeeding practices have the potential to prevent 103,742 child death,an important contribution to reducing over all under-five child mortality,prevent over 19 million cases of childhood diarrhoea and pneumonia,save about N6.93 billion in health care system treatment costs related to inadequate breastfeeding, generate an additional N6.62 trillion for the economy, or 4.1 percent of its GNI, over children’s productive years by increasing cognitive capacity and preventing premature mortality in the early years in addition to eliminating about N11 billion household cost of breastmilk substitutes as well reduce families out of pocket expenditure to treat diarrhoea and pneumonia.

The research further revealed, inadequate breastfeeding imapcts a child’s ability to learn and consequently hinders their future earnings potential adding that Nigeria stand to lose more than N2.84 trillion a year due to future cognitive losses asosciated with suboptimal Breastfeeding.

It also bear indirect cost to health care system which by implication bears huge burden on health resources. For example when children become ill due to diarrhoea and pneumonia caused by inadequate breastfeeding, parents and caregivers often occurs cost to take them to seek treatment at a health care facility.based on estimates from other countries, the e ominc losses that result from lost productivity and transportation cost could amount to 25 percent of the cost of the health care treatment itself.

However the, governmnet during its high level policy dialogue meeting on promoting breastfeeding for national development has vowed to continue to prioritise actions that will foster positive social attitudes towards breastfeeding and reinforce a Breastfeeding culture, demonstrate political will to support breastfeeding,enact policy interventions to ensure maternity protection and workplace intervention as well as regulate breastmilk substitutes industry by implementing, monitoring and enforcing the regulation on marketing of breastmilk substitutes.

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