A Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), Breakthrough ACTION-Nigeria, has allayed the fears that coronavirus could be transmitted from mothers to babies, saying the World Health Organisation (WHO) position on sustained breastfeeding should be imbibed since breast milk contains antibodies.
Nkoyo Umoh, The Program Officer of the NGO, in a press statement made available to our reporter and titled ‘World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) Breakthrough Action –Nigeria Support,’ noted that the breastfeeding week, which began from August 1, 2020 would end on Friday, August 7, and that it was targeted at improving the health of babies around the world amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
According to her, “This year’s World Breastfeeding Week themed, ‘Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet’, will focus on the impact of infant feeding on the environment/climate change and the imperative to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding for the health of the planet and its people.”
She insisted that “breast milk contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses and provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs,” insisting that “the first breast milk called colostrum is very essential to the baby as it protects the child from childhood illness.”
Umoh, who encouraged women to breastfed their babies for the first six month of the baby’s life, noted that breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests and that women who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
“WHO recommends that mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged to initiate or continue to breastfeed, M.others should be counselled that the benefits of breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks for transmission.
“Mother and infant should be enabled to remain together while rooming-in throughout the day and night and to practice skin-to-skin contact, including kangaroo mother care, especially immediately after birth and during the establishment of breastfeeding, whether they or their infants have suspected or confirmed COVID-19,” she stated.
The Program Officer advocated “early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a babe’s life; continued breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond, with the introduction of nutritionally adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods at six months.”
“In Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) has prioritized the zero-water campaign tagged ‘Start Strong’ zero water Exclusive breastfeeding for a better future’. This campaign prioritizes actions towards promoting early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria, particularly in rural areas with very low rates of exclusive breastfeeding leading to stunted growth and other child development challenges.
“World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from 1 to 7 August to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. This campaign prioritizes actions towards promoting early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria, particularly in rural areas with very low rates of exclusive breastfeeding leading to stunted growth and other child development challenges.
“In the face of emergencies, especially during the COVID 19 pandemic, the need to increase efforts to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding has become even more crucial,” she said.
Umoh enumerated specific objectives of the World Breastfeeding Week in 2020 to include: “to inform people about the links between breastfeeding and the environment/climate change; anchor breastfeeding as a climate-smart decision; engage with individuals and organizations for greater impact, and galvanize action on improving the health of the planet and people through breastfeeding.”