By Felicia Imohimi
Abuja – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has urged health workers to take the lead in exclusive breastfeeding practice, to ensure full compliance by mothers and as well boost the nation’s nutritional status.
Dr Martin Jackson, UNICEF Nutrition Officer, Bauchi Zone, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria(NAN).
Jackson said that taking the lead would encourage mothers to effectively practice exclusive breastfeeding as against what is obtainable in some health facilities.
The nutritionist frowned at the poor exclusive practice by some health workers in the country, describing such attitude as a discouragement, to some mothers in adhering to the practice being the solid foundation of any child.
He specifically identified health workers as role models for nursing mothers with regard to improved or adherence to exclusive breastfeeding practice.
He said that in the course of visiting some Community Management of Acute Malnutrition Centres (CMAM) in Bauchi Zone, it was discovered that majority of the health workers that educate mothers on exclusive breastfeeding, do not actually practice it.
“My experience during my field visit especially where we have CMAM programme ongoing, as well as the general health practice, my biggest displeasure came with the fact that we preach exclusive breastfeeding yet the health workers that try to inform mothers about it do not practice it
“This kind of practice or attitude puts a kind of doubt on the minds of mothers. The health worker that is telling me to practice exclusive breastfeeding, yet I see same health workers not doing it, it becomes kind of questionable,” he said.
Jackson said exclusive breastfeeding was of immense benefit to children, adding that exclusively breastfed children thrive well and are able to withstand challenges of illnesses that might come their way compared to non-exclusively breastfed children.
He further noted that they had full mental development and as well attained their full potentials in life.
“Babies, who are breastfed exclusively for the first six months without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses and bouts of diarrhoea. They also have fewer hospital visits or admissions.
“Breast milk provides the ideal nutrients for infants and its a child’s first immunisation. It has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein and fat. It has everything your baby needs to grow.
“Breast milk contains antibodies which help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria among others.”
Jackson urged health workers, the media among others, to always enlighten mothers and caregivers on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for children in the first six months of life and the adverse effect of not breastfeeding children exclusively. (NAN)