Health workers promote exclusive breast-feeding to mothers in Nigerian communities

To ensure that every child is well-nourished from birth, it is crucial to promote adequate infant and young child feeding through optimal breastfeeding, as only 29% of mothers in Nigeria exclusively breastfeed their infants

Ijeoma Onuoha-Ogwe, Communication Officer, UNICEF Nigeria
A mother breastfeeding
01 August 2022

Calabar, Nigeria, August 1, 2022— "Breastfeeding my babies has always given me joy," says 28-year-old Happiness Effiong Ubong, as she cuddles her one-day-old baby being breastfed immediately after delivery at the General Hospital Calabar.

"I have been breastfeeding my baby very well. The nurses here are quite helpful in making sure breastfeeding starts immediately after babies are born, and my husband has been supportive in making sure I breastfeed my children," Happiness said.

This year, the theme for World Breastfeeding Week, "Step Up for Breastfeeding—Educate and Support," aims at addressing bottlenecks against exclusive breastfeeding of infants for the first six months of life.

"When I had my first baby, I breastfed for six months with the help of my husband and family members, who helped out with housework to enable me to relax and breastfeed the baby. "It is not easy to breast feed the baby exclusively without family support," Happiness said.

"I take breastfeeding seriously because of all the benefits it gives to the baby. Also, I learned that breastfeeding helps to develop the baby’s brain very well, and it also helps me with child spacing", Happiness said.



" I faced some challenges like breast engorgement and nipple cracks, but through the help of the nurses at the postnatal clinic, who continued to encourage me to breastfeed more often using the correct methods, I recovered and was able to continue breastfeeding. But this one I don't feel any pain. I just breastfeed easily except that it takes time", Happiness said.

"The government should always come out and check mothers who are able to breastfeed and those that are not capable, because some mothers can't feed well enough to enable them to breastfeed their babies. They should look out for such mothers in the hospital so that they can help", Happiness advises

The Director General, Cross River State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (CRSPHCD), Dr. Janet Ekpenyong said, "Usually there are lots of things discouraging mothers from breastfeeding children optimally, such as excess workload and lack of support at home and work. But we have been able to surmount some of these challenges."

"Between 2020 and 2021, we were looking at about a 25 percent breastfeeding rate among mothers, but from all indications, we are experiencing an increase in breastfeeding practices." Janet said reassuringly.

Mothers breastfeeding their children
Chief Nursing Officer, General Hospital, Calabar, Mrs. Precious Njah, teaching new mothers how to breastfeed.

"Not everyone in the communities knows that the first 1,000 days of life are when the most brain growth occurs, but through health education during antenatal clinics and teachings by our support groups in the families and communities, many of the women now know that breastmilk is the best food for babies." Janet said.

"With only 29 percent of mothers practicing exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria, intensifying the protection and promotion of adequate infant and young child feeding through support for optimal breastfeeding by all actors, including employers of labour, health personnel, and government, especially in the context of COVID-19, is a critical action to be safeguarded," said Nemat Hajeebhoy, Chief of Nutrition, UNICEF Nigeria.