Exclusive breastfeeding ‘ll reduce global cost of health care by USD 300 billion – UNICEF
By Steve Oko
UNICEF has said that the cost of global healthcare services would reduce by USD 300 billion annually if nursing mothers embrace exclusive breastfeeding.
This was contained in a message by UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore to mark 2019 breastfeeding week.
UNICEF urged members to practise exclusive breastfeeding because of the inherent numerous benefits both to baby and mother as well as the family and society at large.
“The ‘first milk’ – or colostrum – is rich in antibodies to protect babies from disease and death. If optimal breastfeeding is achieved, there would be an estimated reduction in global healthcare costs of USD 300 billion”, UNICEF Executive Director said.
UNICEF identified some of the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding to include : supporting healthy brain development in babies and young children, protecting infants against infection, decreasing the risk of obesity and disease, reducing healthcare costs, and protecting nursing mothers against ovarian cancer and breast cancer.
UNICEF, however, regretted that despite the innumerable gains accruable from the practice, “policies that support breastfeeding – such as paid parental leave and breastfeeding breaks – are not yet available to most mothers worldwide.”
Highlighting the theme of this year’s exercise entittled : “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding: Now and for the future!, UNICEF frowned at the attitude of some employers of labour who do give mothers enough time for maternity leave.
“In spite of the benefits of breastfeeding, workplaces worldwide are denying mothers much needed support. We need to far greater investment in paid parental leave and breastfeeding support across all workplaces to increase breastfeeding rates globally.”
“Nearly 60 per cent of the world’s infants are missing out on the recommended six months of exclusive breastfeeding.”
She noted that “only 4 out of 10 babies are exclusively breastfed,” adding that “only 41 per cent of babies were exclusively breastfed in the first six months of life in 2018, as recommended.”
UNICEF strongly advocated prolonged maternity leave and provision of breastfeeding centres for women at work place to encourage exclusive breastfeeding.
“Breastfeeding at work works: Regular lactation breaks during working hours to accommodate breastfeeding or the expression of breastmilk, and a supportive breastfeeding environment including adequate facilities enable mothers to continue exclusive breastfeeding for six months, followed by age-appropriate complementary breastfeeding.
“Worldwide, only 40 per cent of women with newborns have even the most basic maternity benefits at their workplace. This disparity widens among countries in Africa, where only 15 per cent of women with newborns have any benefits at all to support the continuation of breastfeeding.
Meanwhile , investigations by Wawa News Global, revealed that there is still low compliance to exclusive breastfeeding among nursing mothers in Abia state.
The findings by our Correspondent who engaged nursing mothers in Ahaba community, Isuikwuato Local Government Area ; and Uzuakoli in Bende LGA showed that adequate awareness on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding had not been created by health workers in the area.
It was also discovered that undue pressure of grand mothers who see the practice as unnecessary punishment to babies based on their strong attachment to culture and tradition ,was yet another obstacle to exclusive breast feeding.
From the interactions with some of the women, it was also gathered that hardship occasioned by the worsening economic situation in the country has also constituted a serious impediment to the practice as some nursing mothers complain of underfeeding, hence, their inability to observe it despite the benefits.
Mrs. Ifeoma Nwokoro , 28, and mother of one told our Correspondent at Ahaba Isuikwuato that she had not heard anything about exclusive breastfeeding for the first time.
The pregnant migrant farmer from Enugu State who said she registered for anti-natal in a private clinic said she travelled to the village after giving birth to her first baby where her mother assisted her in nurturing him based on their tradition.
She said she did not observe exclusive breastfeeding because she knew nothing about it, but added that if sufficiently educated about the benefits, she would not hesitate to embrace it if she found it rewarding.
Another woman in the community, Mrs. Blessing Okoi said though she had been told about it during anti-natal, she did not believe in it.
The mother of two who said she would never subscribe to it because she did not consider it very idea for babies, however admitted that any time she was convinced on the gains of the exclusive breastfeeding, might encourage other women to embrace it.