Ebonyi community stakeholders have been urged to enact local regulations that would encourage lactating mothers to effectively breastfeed their infants and newborn to guard against childhood illnesses.
The admonition was given by the United States Agency for International Development-funded social behaviour change organization, Breakthrough ACTION –Nigeria, in a media chat to mark World Breastfeeding Week, 2022.
Speaking during the event in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital, the Nutrition focal person for Breakthrough ACTION –Nigeria, Clinton Ofoegbu explained that exclusively breastfed babies have greater immunity against diseases than those denied access to it.
Ofoegbu maintained that properly and exclusively breastfed babies also develop sharper brains, stressing that the first breast milk contains colostrums which has been indicated as very essential for protective hormone development in children.
He further noted that breastfeeding increases filial bonding between the mother and her child which further strengthens the love existing in the family.
The nutrition focal person called on community leaders, youth groups, market women, government and indeed, all stakeholders to support and promote breastfeeding in all possible ways, as well as create baby-friendly space in work places to offer mothers the liberty to regularly breastfeed their babies.
Ofoegbu explained: “USAID-BA-N as a social behavioral change organization is interested in changing the mindset and behaviour of community members as regards 17 priority health behaviours bordering on immunization, ANC visits, malaria prevention, maternal child health, plus nutrition.
“Now on breastfeeding week BA-N is calling the media to help sensitize all and sundry regarding early initiation in breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding, ANC visits the health facilities and postnatal care where they get information on how to address breastfeeding challenges, how to carry out positioning and attachment during breastfeeding, how to combine complementary feeding for 6 to 29 months together with breastfeeding at the community level.
“We want community leaders, youth groups, market women and everybody to come to support, to promote breastfeeding in all the ways they can ensure there is a baby-friendly space in your workplace, and ensure mothers are at liberty to breastfeed their baby anytime.
“Community leaders should help to enact policies to support breastfeeding at the community level and prevent women from overwork when it is time to breastfeed.”
Ofoegbu further called on the men folk to get involved and support the women achieve the goals of effective breastfeeding.
“Men in the community should be involved: give women a chance when it is time to breastfeed; take care of the house chores when the wife is breastfeeding; take care of other children, and prepare dinner for the family while the wife breastfeeds the new baby.
“These are the things we are trying to promote in the media and we hope that the media disseminate the message so that the whole Ebonyi state will move towards ensuring that breastfeeding is promoted, protected and supported,” Ofoegbu emphasized.
Briefing journalists earlier, the State Commissioner for Health Dr. Daniel Umezurike said the world breastfeeding week campaign was aimed at creating awareness about breastfeeding among the public.
Umezurike, represented by the Director, Community Health services, State Primary Health care Development Agency, Ogbonnaya Ituma, noted that Ebonyi State government has created enabling policies to encourage breastfeeding and other health behaviours aimed at stemming infant and maternal mortality.
He pledged the ministry’s commitment to ensure that the campaign was taken to all nooks and crannies of the state.
“The campaign will go to the market and rural areas, and we need to support women.
“Community members, market women, town union, and all the actors should be involved to ensure that the purpose is achieved.
Meanwhile, the focal person, Baby Friendly desk in the Ministry Ngozi Orjinkama, admonished mothers to always breastfeed their babies exclusively for 6 months before giving them water.
The one-week event attracted the collaboration of other health partners in the State: USAID-Integrated health Program, World health Organization, as well as Civil Society organizations and the Media.
Activities to mark the week included road walk/rally, community engagements and stakeholders dialogue.
The theme for the year is “Step up for Breastfeeding: Educate and support”.