Mrs Chimay Thompson, the Assistant Director, Nutrition Division, Family Health Department, Federal Ministry of Health, while speaking in Abuja on Saturday disclosed that improving the nation’s breastfeeding practices could save 100,000 lives in Nigeria yearly.
Thompson said the findings were contained in the current Lancet Breastfeeding Series publication on the implications of breastfeeding for health, social and economic development in Nigeria. She explained that the leading medical journal reviewed and analysed extensive scientific data on breastfeeding which confirmed that breastfeeding could offer life-saving benefits to women and children in any country.
“The Lancet breastfeeding series found measurable impact of breastfeeding on maternal and child survival, health, nutritional status, educational outcomes and economic productivity.
“Other findings indicate that increase in breastfeeding rate could add 150 dollars to Nigeria’s economy each year as a result of increased productivity.
“Breastfeeding could also help prepare Nigerian children for a prosperous future, as breastfeeding is associated with higher intelligence to improve performance in school and increase long term earning potential,” she said.
Thompson added that breastfeeding has implications, not only for the health of children, but also for the country’s economy.
She emphasised that low breastfeeding rates are associated with poor brain development at the individual level, which further reduces learning ability, productivity and lifetime earnings.
She said at the societal level, low breastfeeding rates could lead to a loss of Gross National Income (GNI), estimated at 0.06 per cent or 150 million dollars annually.
Thompson stated that benefits of breastfeeding include greater protection against infections and chronic diseases which could also translate to significant cost savings for families and the healthcare system.
She said globally, breastfeeding could prevent 72 per cent of hospital admissions for diarrhoea and 57 per cent of respiratory infections, hence taking action to protect, promote and support breastfeeding directly connects to Nigeria’s economic growth.
According to Thompson, actions recommended by the Lancet Breastfeeding Series to improve breastfeeding in Nigeria to include, but not limited to: “Disseminating accurate information to the general public and health providers on breastfeeding as a powerful intervention for health and development.
“Fostering a positive social attitude towards breastfeeding through community leaders and role models, demonstrating political will to support breastfeeding by making adequate programme investment and penalising regulatory violations.
“Enacting policy interventions to ensure that maternity protection and workplace interventions are implemented.
“As well as regulating the breast milk substitute industry by implementing, monitoring and enforcing the WHO international code of marketing of breast milk substitutes.”