Afribaby Proposes Six Months Maternity Leave For Breastfeeding Mothers

breastfeedingAS part of efforts to promote exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria, the African International Babycare Initiative, popularly known as Afribaby, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari, state governors and private sector employers to extend maternity to six months for working breastfeeding mothers.

Founder of Afribaby, Dr Oscar Odiboh, who made the call recently during a press conference to announce the forthcoming World Breastfeeding Week and 13th Babies and Moms Expo, stated that such long period of maternity leave would enable breastfeeding mothers to have enough time to exclusively breastfeeding their infants.

Although the various benefits of exclusive breastfeeding have been exposed by experts in medical journals and researches, exclusive breastfeeding has continued to hover around 13 per cent in Nigeria, forcing experts to find ways of boosting the practice.

Odiboh said the forthcoming expo being organised by Afribaby in collaboration with Ifako Ijaiye General Hospital and Tropical Naturals Limited and which comes up at Ifako Ijaiye General Hospital, Lagos, on August 4 and 5, will further throw light on how to overcome the challenge of exclusive breastfeeding and poor lactation among mothers. Odiboh said highlights of the forthcoming expo would be awards for breastfeeding-friendly employers, organisations and institutions, breastfeeding contests and dance.

According to Odiboh, the theme of the conference is, ‘Breastfeeding And Work: Let Us Make It Work’, a theme which has been chosen by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) to revisit the 1993 World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) campaign on the Mother-Friendly Workplace Initiative.

Odiboh explained that breastfeeding is part of infants’ rights for their optimal and healthy development. He therefore urged the Federal Government to make it mandatory for big organisations to have crèches, daycare centres in the work environment, and urged airports and major travel companies to have breastfeeding rooms for breastfeeding mothers.

He also asked the National Assembly to revisit the Exclusive Breastfeeding Bill earlier presented to the seventh National Assembly in 2013, adding that signing of such bill would give life to exclusive breastfeeding. Odiboh said he was ready to battle with organisations denying mothers the opportunity to breastfeed infants exclusively, even as he explained that infants who are not well breastfed are threats to society, as they often exhibit criminal and violent tendencies at adulthood.

He called on the private sector to assist him in building Breast Milk Bank as part of efforts to help infants who have lost their mothers or those who have been abandoned. “Do not give us the money to build Breast Milk Bank. Build one for us; we know what to with it to meet the needs of infants,” Odiboh said.

Deputy Medical Director and Head of Clinical Services and Training at Ifako Ijaiye, Dr Bamijebi Adebayo, said the importance of exclusive breastfeeding can never be over-emphasised, as breast milk has been found to boost children’s immunity against diseases and promote their brain development. “There is nothing good as exclusive breastfeeding, as there is no child who is well-fed who will not grow up as a brilliant child, ”Adebayo said.

He added that the realisation has made the Lagos State Government to sign six-month maternity leave and two weeks paternity leave last year.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants. It is also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers.

WHO added that review of evidence has shown that, on a population basis, exclusive breastfeeding for six months is the optimal way of feeding infants.

To enable mothers to establish and sustain exclusive breastfeeding for six months, WHO and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recommend: initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of life, exclusive breastfeeding- a type of breastfeeding where infant only receives breast milk without any additional food or drink, not even water, for the first six months of life, and breastfeeding on demand as the child wants, day and night.

Although exclusive breastfeeding has been promoted as the best option for infants, a lot of Nigerian women are not breastfeeding their infants exclusively for the first six months of life.

The Executive Director of Afribaby, Mrs Olayinka Odiboh, while giving hints as to why the challenge exists, stated that a lot of Nigerian mothers are not aware of the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, hence their reluctance to exclusively breastfeed their infants.

Olayinka added that even some women who are aware of the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, often back out of the project when they face the strenuous job of combining house chores with breastfeeding and work. “Women need all the support in the world to breastfeed exclusively. And six months maternity leave will be a great support,” she said.

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