Just 10 Steps: UNICEF joins Government to urge healthcare workers to promote exclusive breastfeeding
ABUJA, 3 August 2010—As they continue to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, Nigeria and UNICEF are calling on health professionals to encourage new mothers to breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first six months.
The information that mothers receive from healthcare providers exerts a strong influence on their attitudes to breastfeeding.
“Breast milk completely meets an infant’s nutritional requirements, and protects babies from dangerous illnesses,” said Dr. Suomi Sakai, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria. “Nothing protects a newborn’s life better than exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.” “Nothing protects a newborn’s life better than exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.”
The theme for this year’s World Breastfeeding Week is Breastfeeding: Just 10 Steps—the Baby-friendly Way. The 10 Steps, introduced by WHO and UNICEF in 1989 and adopted by more than 1,100 maternities in Nigeria, call on every facility providing healthcare for pregnant women, new mothers and newborns to:Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff. Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within 30 minutes of birth. Show mothers how to breastfeed, and how to maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infants. Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk unless medically indicated. Practice rooming in - allow mothers and infants to remain together - 24 hours a day. Encourage breastfeeding on demand. Give no artificial teats or pacifiers (also called dummies or soothers) to breastfeeding infants. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.
These 10 Steps apply equally to mothers who are HIV-positive: the Government of Nigeria, in line with WHO guidelines, promotes exclusive breastfeeding among new mothers who are HIV-positive while providing them with antiretroviral drug therapy to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV through breast milk.
In Nigeria, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding increased significantly from 2 per cent in 1990 to 17 per cent in 2003—but then fell to 13 per cent in 2008. Some of the reasons are inadequate training for healthcare workers, weak application of the 10 Steps, lack of knowledge, and cultural practices and beliefs.
Undernutrition—failure to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months being one of its key causes—is having a devastating effect on the lives of the youngest among us: it is estimated to be the underlying cause of death in up to half of the 1.2 million children under five years old who die in Nigeria every year. Undernutrition—failure to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months being one of its key causes—is having a devastating effect on the lives of the youngest among us: it is estimated to be the underlying cause of death in up to half of the 1.2 million children under five years old who die in Nigeria every year.
Whether they deliver in a maternity clinic or at home, women have the right to learn about the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding and be encouraged to practise it. It is vitally important that new mothers find support for exclusive breastfeeding not only in the primary health care system, but in their families, the community, and the workplace as well.
UNICEF, with the BBC World Service Trust, has just created a series of public service announcements about exclusive breastfeeding in Pidgin and Hausa. They will be broadcast on radio across the country, and will soon be available on its website from http://www.unicef.org/nigeria/media.html
“We hope,” said Dr. Sakai, “that breastfeeding will become a topic of conversation everywhere.”
World Breastfeeding Week
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