By Suleiman Sani, Jalingo

It has been observed that increasing breastfeeding would prevent eight hundred and twenty-three (823,000) annual deaths in children under five and twenty thousand (20,000) annual deaths from breast cancer.

This was shown in a recent study carried out by UNICEF where it also found that women with six months or more maternity leave were at least thirty per cent (30%) more likely to maintain any breastfeeding for the first six months.

According to UNICEF Executive Director, Ms Henrietta Fore, despite the acceptance of the health, social and economic benefits of breastfeeding for mother and child globally, yet, nearly 60 per cent of the world’s infants are missing out on the recommended six months of exclusive breastfeeding.

She said, from 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, the benefits are widespread.
“We need far greater investment in paid parental leave and breastfeeding support across all workplaces to increase breastfeeding rates globally,” Ms Fore underscored.”

According to the fact sheet, new data from the 2019 Global Breastfeeding Scorecard revealed among other things, that only four out of ten Babies in 2018 were exclusively breastfed in which babies in rural areas were breastfed more than their urban counterparts at 23.9 per cent, and upper-middle-income countries had the lowest breastfeeding rates.

Also in 2018, only twenty-three per cent of babies worldwide were breastfed within the first hour of life.

UNICEF recommends regular lactation breaks during working hours to accommodate breastfeeding or expressing breastmilk, along with a supportive environment, which includes facilities that enable mothers to continue breastfeeding for six months, followed by age-appropriate complementary breastfeeding.

However, Henrietta Fore who noted that working women lack adequate support said, worldwide only 40 per cent of women with newborns have basic maternity benefits at their workplace, and in some African countries, only 15 per cent of mothers with newborns have any benefits at all to support continued breastfeeding.

She explained that optimal breastfeeding would reduce global healthcare costs by an estimated three hundred billion dollars ($300b).

“UNICEF’s latest brief on family-friendly policy calls for at least six months of maternity paid leave for all parents combined, of which 18 weeks should be reserved for mother’s, while governments and businesses should strive for at least nine months of combined paid leave”.

Meanwhile, the UN children’s Fund disclosed that immediate skin-to-skin contact and early breastfeeding keeps a baby warm, builds his or her immune system, promotes bonding, boosts a mother’s milk supply and increases the chances for continued exclusive breastfeeding.

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