NASS Advocates Exclusive Breastfeeding Enabling Environment For Women
By Chioma Godwin
As Nigeria join the other countries across the world to mark the 40th Anniversary of the International Code of marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes (BMS), the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, has advocated for an enabling environment across board for women to exclusively breastfeed their children.
The 40th Anniversary of the International Code of marketing of the Breast Milk Substitutes (BMS) theme; is “Implementing the BMS Code in Nigeria: Progress, Challenges and Opportunities.”
He said that breastfeeding in Nigeria is high but however, lamented that few women practice exclusive breastfeeding due to the lack of the enabling environment.
According to the Senator: “Breast feeding in Nigeria is high because almost every women breast feed, but exclusive breastfeeding is not at the stage or the level we want it to be.
“Our exclusive breastfeeding rate in Nigeria is 29 per cent but it is worrisome that only 9 per cent of work place have environment for exclusive breastfeeding. So, therefore, we have the Code for 40 years, we have done a lot of things, but the enabling environment for the Code to work is still not there.
“This is because increasingly, women are working, we can checkmate and ensure women do exclusive breastfeeding, but then, are there supportive environment? This is one of the things policy makers need to work on.”
Senator Oloriegbe, however, explained that: “Since we came in two years ago into the National Assembly, we have had discussion with Safe the Children on how we can change the law to be able to implement six months maternity leave because it is not yet universal.
“We need to work together as stakeholders to make sure that we achieve that and I want to pass that verdict that within the next 6 months, we should be able to pass that law.
“We want all stakeholders to put our hands together. When we do this, it should across board for all employers of labour.
“There are some states, especially, Kaduna state who do that but we need to make across board, particularly, the private sector. This is because the private sector engages more women.
“Some commercial institutions like banks and others will want the woman to come back after six weeks, how do you want the woman to exclusively breastfeed?
“The second thing we need to promote as a policy is work place environment.
“This is because after exclusive breastfeeding, we need to provide a good environment to the woman to continue to breast for a period of two years so as to provide proper nutrition for our children.
“This is because after six months when the woman resume, it does not mean that breastfeeding has stopped.
“This is critical. We have a lot of studies that have proven the advantages of exclusive breastfeeding. It is has been shown that productivity, IQ and intelligence have direct correlation with breastfeeding.
“It is important that policy makers and implementers ensure that the future is better than today by making every child that is born to not only have early breastfeeding but exclusive breastfeeding and continuous breastfeeding and appropriate nutrition.”
Earlier, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, said that his ministry remained committed to improving survival of children, especially the ones under the age of five-year and maternal child care through various policies that would promote healthy living.
Represented by the Director of Family Health in the Ministry, Dr Anas Kolo, said that the ministry had gone ahead to promote baby friendly hospital initiative.
Ehanire maintained that the ministry would continue to promote exclusive breastfeeding and other initiatives in the same direction.
The minister, therefore, encouraged mothers to continue to breastfeed their babies in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that support mechanisms were on the way to encourage mothers.
On her part, the Director General of the National Agency for the Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Christian Adeyeye, said that BMS Code was aimed at contributing to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants by protecting and promoting breastfeeding and to ensure proper use of breast-milk substitutes only when they were necessary.
The Code, according to her, was to protect mothers from aggressive marketing of breast-milk substitutes.
She further said that the code was also to ensure safe feeding and better nutrition for infants and young children as the provision of the code recommended restrictions on marketing of BMS.
“Nigeria, a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) voted for code adoption in 1981 and is expected to implement all its provisions in the entirety as a minimum requirement and to translate it into national legislation, regulations and other suitable measures.
“As a country, Nigeria takes her international and national obligations very serious which is why the provisions of CAP M5 Marketing BMS Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 as amended by Decree 22 of 1999.
“This Act designated NAFDAC as the regulatory agency to implement, monitor and enforce the code in Nigeria.
“It is our collective desire as NAFDAC, the agency designated to implement and enforce this code compliance in Nigeria, to work collaboratively with all stakeholders and partners.
“To contribute to achieving safe and adequate nutrition for our infants through protection and promotion of breastfeeding.”