Exclusive Breastfeeding: FG set to approve six-month maternity leave

Abuja—The Federal Government may soon approve a six-month maternity leave for nursing mothers to be able to provide optimal care for their children, particularly with regard to exclusively breastfeeding them.

The government also called on organisations to prioritise the creation of enabling environment that supports working class mothers to be able to breastfeed their children.

It noted that breastfeeding children exclusively for six months provides immense benefits including protection from infections and diseases, development of the brain and cognitive capacities, and growth of children, among other benefits.

The Nation newspaper reports that the plan was endorsed in Minna yesterday by the wife of Niger State governor, Hajiya Fatima Umar Bago, who also advocated four-week paternity leave for men to enable them support their wives after childbirth.

In a speech during the commemoration of this year’s world breastfeeding week in Abuja, the Director and Head of Micronutrient Deficiency Control, Federal Ministry of Health, Chief John Uruakpa John said there was need to encourage both working class and full time mothers to breastfeed their child.

“We also want to get the men involved to provide the enabling environment,” he said at the ceremony whose theme is: enabling breastfeeding, making a difference for working parents.

“It is, however, not a matter of just breastfeeding; you must exclusively breastfeed your child for six months for you to get the best out of that breast milk,” he added.

John noted that from the last National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) of 2018, only 29 per cent of women exclusively breastfeed their children.

He added: “We have up to 90 per cent of Nigerian women breastfeeding. So, if you minus 29 per cent, you will see that you have almost 60 per cent adding water.

“If we can sensitise this section adding water to stop adding water, then Nigeria will get up to 90 per cent.

“We encourage organisations to provide an environment that will enable our mothers to breastfeed.

“That is why the government in its wisdom has approved 16 weeks maternity leave, and we are pushing for six months, which we are getting food feelers, and it will soon be approved.

“Even at that, some states have approved six months, and even given the fathers paternity leave of two weeks. Also, the fathers are pushing for more, say four weeks.”

Speaking on behalf of the USAID-funded Breakthrough Action Nigeria Project, Angela Samba said: “The goal of our project is to increase the practice of priority health and nutrition behaviour, which breastfeeding is one of them.

“The workplace has a very significant role to play in ensuring that mothers are able to breastfeed effectively.

“In Nigeria, a lot of mothers breastfeed, yet our stunting rate is very high. The reason is that although mothers breastfeed, they don’t breastfeed appropriately.

“We are advocating optimal breastfeeding.”

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