Promoting, Supporting Breastfeeding For A Healthier Planet

Breast-milk is the natural first food for babies with all the nutrient the infants need for the first six months of life. It helps infants to fight against infections and diseases.

As stated in the Global strategy on infant and young child feeding Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants; it is also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers.

Exclusive breastfeeding on the other hand  is defined as no other food or drink, not even water, except breast milk (including milk expressed or from a wet nurse) for 6 months of life, but allows the infant to receive ORS, drops and syrups (vitamins, minerals and medicines).

Apart from the global public health recommendation, stipulating that infants should be exclusively breastfed1 for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health, the  practice of exclusive breastfeeding can also help to reduce infant mortality.

For the nursing mother, Exclusive breastfeeding has so many advantages. It contributes to her good health and over all well-being, it helps her to space child bearing, it helps fight the Ovarian and breast cancer.

Breastfeeding increases bond between mother and child and also helps to promote sensory evaluation and cognitive development of the baby.

Breastfeeding Exclusively is superior to bottle feeding, it  is environmentally friendly, readily available, and does not require fuel to prepare.

Breastfeeding does not waste scarce resources or create pollution. There is therefore the need to promote exclusive breastfeeding of Nigerian children.

 Being an environmental friendly act, feeding at the breast also reduces waste – from production to feeding, no products are needed, just mom and baby’s bodies unlike formula feeding that consumes resources and pollutes the environment. Protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding will no doubt amount to a healthier  planet. For instance, breast milk helps to prevent pneumonia and diarrhoea, two of the leading causes of death for children under five. Unlike breast feeding, formula feeding leaves a major environmental footprint that contributes to the depletion of natural resources while exposing infants to diseases and infections.

 With the numerous benefits of breastfeeding. It is clear that the 25% Exclusive Breastfeeding rate for Nigeria is not enough as  2.6 million children under the age of five still face the threat of malnutrition.

 There is need to  make Nigeria healthier and Smarter by improving optimal breastfeeding practices more so for  Nigeria to achieve the SDG 2 and SDG3 which includes ending hunger, improving nutrition and promoting health and well-being breast feeding must be promoted and supported.

 Even in the face of the raging COVID-19 pandemic a mother whose status is suspected or confirmed can still breastfeed her baby because Breastfeeding benefits outweigh the potential risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus.

 Yes! she can breastfeed if covid-19 is suspected or confirmed all she need to do is to follow these guidelines;-Wash hands and wear a mask before breastfeeding, Cough/sneeze into a tissue and dispose of immediately, Clean / disinfect surfaces and eat right to stay healthy and prevent infection .           Everyone has a role to play to achieve the goal of protection, promotion, and support for optimal breastfeeding practices in Nigeria.

 On its part,   a non-governmental nutrition advocate in Nigeria, Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition (C-SUNN) in promotion of breastfeeding   hosted  a 2-hour social media campaign on Twitter in commemoration of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week with the Objectives of informing people about the links between breastfeeding and the environment/climate change, anchor breastfeeding as a climate-smart decision, engage with individuals and organizations for greater impact, and to galvanize action on improving the health of the planet and people through breastfeeding.

The awareness CS-SUNN created on the relationship between breastfeeding and the environment no doubt will improve support for exclusive breastfeeding practices as mothers are equipped with information to nourish their babies for healthier environment.

As the organization joins  Nigeria and  the rest of the world to commemorate the 2020 World Breastfeeding Week (WBW), CS-SUNN has called for improved investments at all levels  of governance to promote breastfeeding in Nigeria.

The theme for this year’s WBW, being “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet” draws attention to the fact that breast milk, is a natural renewable food that is environmentally safe for infants because it is produced and delivered to infants without pollution, packaging and waste. The theme also focused on the impact of infant feeding on the environment or climate change as well as  the imperative to protect, promote and support breastfeeding for the health of the planet and its people.

According to the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action  (WABA), Breastfeeding is a prime example of the deep connections between human health and nature’s eco system. WABA also reinstates that protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding addresses inequalities that stand in the way of sustainable development. The Alliance further notes that artificial feeding leaves a major environmental footprint that contributes to the depletion of natural resources, environment degradation and green-house emissions that cause global warming and climate change.

Nigeria’s Exclusive breastfeeding rate had remained abysmally low with only a marginal increase from 2% in 1990 to 17% in 2013 (NNHS). It then jumped to 29% as reported in the 2018 NDHS.

 Although some minimal progress has been made in this regard, CS-SUNN had questioned what impact this 26-year long annual  WBW celebration has had on breastfeeding in Nigeria, while expressing concern about how Nigeria will meet the global targets of 50% Exclusive Breastfeeding rate by 2025.

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