As Nigeria joins the global community to commemorate this year's World Breastfeeding Week, the minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has said that despite the benefits of breastfeeding, the indices in the country are below optimal.
The minister, who stated this at a press briefing yesterday in Abuja, said that an estimated 20,000 maternal deaths could be prevented annually if optimal breastfeeding were practiced.
According to the National Demographic and Health Survey 2018, 97 per cent of children are breastfed at one point or the other; but only 42 per cent are put to breast within one hour of birth and the proportion of children between zero to six months who are exclusively breastfed is 29 per cent.
Reiterating the federal ministry of Health's recommendation of early initiation of breastfeeding within an hour of birth, Ehanire explained that as part of measures to increase optimal breastfeeding practices, the ministry had developed the National Social and Behavioural Change Strategy for infant and Young Child Feeding.
He, however, identified the practice by mothers and care givers, on giving water to babies from birth to the age of six months as a major barrier to proper implementation of the strategy.