Breastfeeding week:Nutrition consultant calls for maternity leave extension

Gloria Essien, Abuja

The World Breastfeeding Week has ended in Nigeria with a call for the government to extend maternity leave to six months.The call is said to be necessary as it would help nursing mothers complete the mandatory six months exclusive breastfeeding requirement.

The Nutrition Consultant, Mrs. Ada Ezeogu, said that for the Nigerian government to actualize its breastfeeding targets, it must either provide creches in work places or extend maternity leave.“The other thing is returning to work early so when they got back to work and there is no crèche, there is no room where they can have their baby close by to breastfeed .

If there is a crèche , it doesn’t have to be fancy, just a room that is clean and a bit comfortable where she can stay with someone looking after him and the mother can come in between to breastfeed, then it will reduce the chances of her stopping.

Ezeogu also said a mother can extract her breastmilk and leave at home so the baby can be fed with it, but its better when a creche is provided in her work place.

She also added that the best idea would be extending maternity leave to six months. She said Lagos has already adopted the six months maternity leave and hopefully other states will soon do the same.

She  advocated for paternity leave for husbands of nursing mothers, stating that some organizations avail their staff with it. She added that the leave is usually given by the first week after the baby is born so the mother gets her husbands support at the most critical time.

She also said that ” Breastfeeding provides all the nourishment that the child needs including water, it protects the child from infections, disease and allergies. It also helps in dental and jaw development of the child and it creates bounding between the child and the mother . It has been shown that the children that are exclusively breastfeed have better IQ and behaviour . So for the child that’s a win-win and there is also link to reduced depression in adolescents”, she stated.

The nutritionist noted that breastfeeding protects mothers from breast cancer and other things.

Mrs. Ezeogu also said that breastfeeding helps children to stay healthy. “Mothers spend less time going to the hospital because the child is healthy and less incidences of diarrhoea and upper respiratory infections occur.The family benefits from that by saving money” she said.

She added that the community benefits from breastfeeding by having healthy children who are able to attain school, they become intelligent and contribute to the community.

Some of the nursing mothers who took part in the World Breastfeeding Week said that it has helped them to understand more about exclusive breastfeeding and if maternity leave is extended, it would help them a lot.

Few of the issues addressed during the 2017 breastfeeding week were, proper positioning and attachment of the baby during breastfeeding, none introduction of water during the first six months of exclusive breastfeeding and benefits of breastfeeding to the baby, family, community and the nation.

Adama.L