Dr Obikwe Kizito, Consultant Paediatrician based in Abuja, has called on nursing mothers to disregard the erroneous belief that breastfeeding causes breasts to sag, saying breastfeeding is the foundation of life.
Kizito told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Abuja that the misinformation had become a common belief among young mothers. “This is not medically true as it has not been scientifically proven. Therefore, nursing mothers should engage in exclusive breastfeeding for the well-being of their children,” he said.
The consultant said that consistent wearing of well-fitted brazier would help keep breast firm during and after the breastfeeding period.
According to him, breastfeeding also helps mothers lose the weight they might have gained during pregnancy.
“Surprisingly, Nigeria still has one of the lowest exclusive breastfeeding rates of between 20 and 23 per cent of nursing mothers,” he said.
Kizito also decried situation where some people viewed breastfeeding as old fashioned, a development which, he said, had been trending on the social media.
He attributed the low rate of breastfeeding in the country to lack of proper education and enlightenment on the importance of breastfeeding to both the mother and the child.
Kizito added that insufficient maternity leave by some employers had also significantly impacted negatively on the ability of many mothers to practise breastfeeding.
This, he said, had given room to some nursing mothers to opt for milk formula as an alternative to breastfeeding, adding that fathers should encourage their wives on breastfeeding, regardless of their socio-economic status.
Kizito said the child’s nutrition for the first 1,000 days of his life was very crucial, as it would protect such child from common causes of under-five mortality such as malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia, among others.
“There is interplay between malnutrition and breast milk because it is the first nutrition a baby gets that sets him for good nutrition status in future.
“There is also a synergetic role between a nutritional status, diseases and infection. If a child’s nutritional status is optimal, he will have less illness and frequent hospitalisation.
“Breast milk is the best and most nutritious food an infant can ever get; hence it is important that everyone supports and encourages breastfeeding at every level.
“It provides everything that a child requires in terms of quality and quantity to guarantee growth and development for the first six months; it improves cognitive ability and it is available and economical,’’ he said.
The consultant said that the expectation was for every child to be breastfed exclusively for six months while complimentary feeding continues for two years, with adequate nutritious feeding.
He listed some of the benefits of breastfeeding to include social interaction and bonding between the children and their mothers, protection of mother from post-partum haemorrhage, helping in child spacing and prevention of breast and cervical cancer.
Kizito said that key indicators for health for children were immunisation and exclusive breastfeeding, adding that studies had shown that countries where this was well implemented achieved better output economically.
He called on government to strengthen primary health centres across the country to provide quality antenatal services, adding that government policies on maternity leave should cover the whole period of exclusive breastfeeding.
The consultant also suggested that public and private organisations should be mandated to establish crèches to encourage breastfeeding.