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By Stellamaries Amuwa
Breast milk is widely acknowledged as the most complete form of nutrition for infants, with a range of benefits for health, growth, immunity and development. There are numerous benefits from breastfeeding as even diabetic women improve their health by breastfeeding. Not only do nursing infants have increased protection from juvenile diabetes, the amount of insulin that the mother requires postpartum goes down. Women who lactate for a total of two or more years reduce their chances of developing breast cancer by 24 percent.
World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from 1 to 7 August in more than 170 countries to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world.
It commemorates the Innocenti Declaration signed in August 1990 by government policymakers, World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other organizations to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. Innocenti declaration calls on governments to “…enact imaginative legislation protecting the breastfeeding rights of working women and establish means for its enforcement”.
Speaking during the 2015 World breastfeeding week in Abuja, marked by the Civil Society Scalling-up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), the Chairman steering committee, Prof. Ngozi Nnam, said “the gains of exclusive breastfeeding is enormous, it has economic advantages, it is cheaper than buying formula and helps avoid medical bills later in life because it helps equip the baby to fight off disease and infection, you raise champions, when you breast feed exclusively, you get intelligent children who will contribute to the economy of the nation and society at large”.
Lagos state has approved six month maternity leave for exclusive breastfeeding, thus other states should follow the step”, adding that “breast milk is a unique nutritional source that cannot adequately be replaced by any other food, including infant formula, many studies show that breastfeeding strengthens the immune system. During nursing, the mother passes antibodies to the child, which help the child resist diseases and help improve the normal immune response to certain vaccines”.
The World Health Organizations WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding starting within one hour after birth until a baby is six months old. Nutritious complementary foods should then be added while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years or beyond.
This World Breastfeeding Week, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) calls for concerted global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work. Whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal or home setting, it is necessary that she is empowered in claiming her and her baby’s right to breastfeed.
Internationally World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and its partners at global, regional and national levels aim to empower and support ALL women, working in both the formal and informal sectors, to adequately combine work with child-rearing, particularly breastfeeding.