BY UBON EKANEM, CALABAR – As the celebration of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) continues amid the , Breakthrough Action – Nigeria (BA-N) says breastfeeding must be anchored as a climate-smart decision.

This is as it also adopted World Health Organisation (WHO)’s recommendation that mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases should still be encouraged to initiate or continue breastfeeding their children.

Breakthrough Action Nigeria (BA-N) is a USAID funded Social behaviour change project with the goal of increasing practice of priority individual health behaviour in target states in MNCH+N, FP, Malaria.

According to BA-N, in the face of emergencies, especially the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the need to increase efforts at protecting; promoting; and supporting breastfeeding has become even more crucial across the globe.

It further stated that “mothers should be counselled that the benefits of breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks for transmission.”

Similarly, it explained that the mother and infant should “remain together while rooming-in throughout the day and night and to practice skin-to-skin contact, including kangaroo mother care, especially immediately after birth and during the establishment of breastfeeding, whether they or their infants have suspected or confirmed COVID-19.”

The WBW is celebrated every year from August 1 to 7 to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world.

This year’s Week with the theme: “Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet”, focuses on the impact of infant feeding on the environment/climate change and the imperative to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding for the health of the planet and its people.

Specifically, WBW 2020 objectives are to:
● Inform people about the links between breastfeeding and the environment/climate change;
● Anchor breastfeeding as a climate-smart decision;
● Engage with individuals and organizations for greater impact; and
● Galvanize action on improving the health of the planet and people through breastfeeding

In Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) has prioritized the zero-water campaign tagged: “Start Strong’ zero water Exclusive breastfeeding for a better future”.

This campaign prioritizes actions towards promoting early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria, particularly in rural areas with very low rates of exclusive breastfeeding leading to stunted growth and other child development challenges.

More so, it highlights facts on breastmilk to include:
● Breast milk is the ideal food for infants. It is safe and contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses;
● Breastmilk provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one third during the second year of life;
● Breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese, and less prone to diabetes later in life;
● Women who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers; and
● The first breastmilk called colostrum is very essential to the baby, as it protects the child from childhood illness.

In addition, WHO recommendations and BA-N priority behaviors for breastfeeding of infants up to two (2) years of age encourage the following:
● Early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth;
● Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life; and
● Continued breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond, with the introduction of nutritionally adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods at six months.

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