Nigeria has recorded an improvement in the rate of excluding breastfeeding, rising from the previous 17 per cent in 2013 to 29 per cent in 2018, according to data in the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS, 2013; 2018).
A joint statement issued by the Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore and the Director General of the World Health Organisation(WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, however stated that this 29 per cent rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the country, still falls significantly below the target of 50 per cent set by the World Health Assembly to be achieved in 2025 and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target for 2030.
The statement was issued to mark the World Breastfeeding Week, which is commemorated globally in the first week of August.
“This year’s World Breastfeeding Week, under its theme ‘Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility’ is a time to revisit the commitments made at the start of this year by prioritising breastfeeding-friendly environments for mothers and babies, ” the duo stated.
According to them, “While there has been progress in breastfeeding rates in the last four decades – with a 50 per cent increase in the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding globally – the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the fragility of those gains.”
“In many countries, the pandemic has caused significant disruptions in breastfeeding support services, while increasing the risk of food insecurity and malnutrition.”
The statement showed that the percentage of children who were breastfed within one hour of birth in Nigeria (42 per cent) remains less than 50 per cent. “Breastfeeding rates in Nigeria reduced with age – 83 per cent of the children are breastfed up to one year, while 28 per cent are breastfeeding till two years.
Furthermore, it was shown that the proportion of children who are not breastfeeding increases with age.
They said, “This year’s World Breastfeeding Week, under its theme ‘Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility’ is a time to revisit the commitments made at the start of this year by prioritising breastfeeding-friendly environments for mothers and babies.”
They urged countries to ensure the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes – established to protect mothers from aggressive marketing practices by the baby food industry – is fully implemented by governments, health workers and industry.
“Ensuring health care workers have the resources and information they need to effectively support mothers to breastfeed, including through global efforts such as the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative, and guidelines on breastfeeding counselling.
“Ensuring employers allow women the time and space they need to breastfeed; including paid parental leave with longer maternity leave; safe places for breastfeeding in the workplace; access to affordable and good-quality childcare; and universal child benefits and adequate wages.”