Benin City — The Paediatrics Association of Nigeria (PAN) has urged policy makers to encourage parents to adopt exclusive breastfeeding for their babies due to its benefits to the child, mother, community and the nation.
National Present, PAN, Prof. Augustine Omoigberale made the call during the National Breastfeeding Week organised by the association at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) Benin City, capital of Edo State.
He said the call became necessary because of the low rate of breastfeeding which has assumed an alarming proportion due to UNICEF downgrade of their activities on child mortality at a time which in turn, affected the rate of breastfeeding.
Omoigberale recalled that in the 90's, the entire Southwest including, Edo and Delta had breastfeeding rate of over 65 per cent, noting however, that the average rate has nosedived to 23 per cent, which if nothing is done could be disastrous to the nation.
He said the theme of the World Breastfeeding Week: "Empowering Parents, Enable Breastfeeding" was carefully chosen to encourage both mothers and fathers to observe exclusive breastfeeding.
According to him, "This is because mothers believe that when they breastfeed their breasts becomes floppy. This is not true. Floppiness of breasts is as a result of one or two factors: including personal maternal structure or fatty substance in the breast tissue."
Listing the advantages, he said breastfeeding serves as optimal food for the babies as it helps protect from infections, and allergic diseases because studies have shown that babies who are exclusively breastfed are more intelligent than those that are given formula milk.
Omoigberale also stated that mothers who breastfeed are not likely to suffer cervical or breast cancer because apart from creating bond between mother and child, it helps mothers experience easy and early evolution of the uterus immediately after birth; and also serves as contraceptive because during the period of breastfeeding, mothers do not menstruate or ovulate which prevents pregnancy.
"Exclusive breastfeeding has specific definitions. It means a period of zero to six months and 24 hours a day.
"Partial breastfeeding, six months to one year when the baby has started taking semi solid food and family menu; and token breastfeeding which is one year to two years when the baby is running around and has begun taking solid food."