The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has issued a dire warning, revealing that infants deprived of breastfeeding are fourteen times more susceptible to mortality before their first birthday compared to those who receive exclusive breastfeeding. UNICEF emphasized that breast milk stands as the primary vaccine for infants, and it urgently called for increased efforts to promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.
Dr. Tushar Rane, the Chief of UNICEF’s Bauchi Field Office, conveyed this critical message during a media dialogue held in Azare, Bauchi. Attended by journalists from Bauchi, Gombe, Taraba, Adamawa, and Plateau states, the dialogue underscored the paramount significance of breastfeeding as a lifesaving measure.
“Breast milk is the cornerstone in shielding infants from life-threatening infections and aiding optimal brain development, particularly during the initial 1,000 days of life. Furthermore, breastfeeding ultimately results in lowered healthcare costs,” Dr. Rane emphasized.
Acknowledging the challenges faced by working mothers, Dr. Rane highlighted workplace-related factors as a leading cause of premature breastfeeding cessation. Balancing work responsibilities and breastfeeding often poses significant difficulties for working mothers, and addressing these challenges is crucial.
“Government bodies and employers must provide essential support to mothers and caregivers, including those in the informal sector or on temporary contracts. It is imperative to create an environment that facilitates convenient breastfeeding and supports nursing mothers. Policies promoting breastfeeding, such as granting six months of paid maternity leave, instituting paid paternity leave, implementing flexible return-to-work options, offering regular lactation breaks during working hours, and establishing adequate facilities for breastfeeding, must be actively endorsed,” Dr. Rane asserted.
Echoing the call for enhanced breastfeeding support, Dr. Rilwanu Mohammed, Chairman of Bauchi State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, revealed that the state government is on the brink of enacting legislation to provide nursing mothers ample time to exclusively breastfeed their infants. He cited successful precedents set by Lagos and Kaduna states, where six months of maternity leave have been formalized for working mothers, ensuring comprehensive care for their infants.
The UNICEF-led dialogue has cast a spotlight on the indispensable role of exclusive breastfeeding in safeguarding infant lives and promoting healthy development, resonating with a call for concerted efforts to create an environment conducive to nurturing the well-being of both mothers and their infants.