Nigeria: World Breastfeeding Week – Real Reasons Mothers Must Breastfeed Babies – Lactation Expert

Every year, WBD is celebrated in the first week of August to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding and its benefits.

As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to commemorate the 2023 World Breastfeeding Week (WBW), a Lactation expert, Chinny Obinwanne, has listed some benefits of breastfeeding for both mothers and their babies.

Ms Obinwanne, also the Founder of Milk Booster and Milk Bank Nigeria, said breastfeeding is essential for the overall health and wellness of both baby and mother.

She said it reduces the risk of many illnesses and diseases in a newborn, from respiratory issues like pneumonia to gastrointestinal problems like vomiting and diarrhoea, including lowering the risk of allergy, eczema, asthma, and atopic dermatitis.

She said breast milk provides the perfect nutrition that contains everything a baby needs for the first six months of life.

She noted that getting breast milk provides a lot of immediate and long-term benefits that follow the baby as they grow to become toddlers, teenagers, and a grown adult.

“For a newborn, the first milk (colostrum), which is loaded with antibodies, coats the lining of the gut preventing the passage of bacteria and viruses into the baby’s body system,” she said.

World Breastfeeding Week

Every year, WBD is celebrated in the first week of August. It is observed globally to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding and its benefits. Its main aim is to support and encourage breastfeeding as a vital aspect of health and well-being for both mother and child.

In line with the theme of this year’s WBD, “Let’s Make Breastfeeding at Work, Work”, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) emphasised the need for greater breastfeeding support across all workplaces to sustain and improve progress on breastfeeding rates globally.

In a joint statement to commemorate the 2023 WBW, the global agencies said countries as diverse as Cote d’Ivoire, Marshall Islands, the Philippines, Somalia, and Vietnam have achieved significant increases in breastfeeding rates.

To reach the global 2030 target of 70 per cent, the agencies noted that the barriers women and families face in achieving their breastfeeding goals must be addressed.

The agencies noted that breastfeeding rates drop significantly for women when they return to work but can be reversed when workplaces facilitate mothers to continue to breastfeed their babies.

“Family-friendly workplace policies – such as paid maternity leave, breastfeeding breaks, and a room where mothers can breastfeed or express milk – create an environment that benefits not only working women and their families but also employers,” the statement read.

Alternative method

Ms Obinwanne noted that breastfeeding helps a mother lose weight as it takes a considerable amount of calories to manufacture breast milk. She explained that the more breast milk a mother’s body produces, the more calories it will consume from her body fat storage to make it.

“As long as the mother is eating the right nutrient-dense meals, she will notice weight loss,” she said.

She said in situations where nursing mothers are not able to produce enough milk for their babies, they can use pasteurised donor human milk.

This, she said, is better than supplementing breast milk with formula.

Milk Bank

Speaking on the challenges of running a milk bank in Nigeria, she noted that lack of funding plays a huge role.

“Without any external funding, the milk booster has been funding the cost implication of running the milk bank from paying the staff, blood screening of each donor mum; the numerous pre-pasteurisation and post-pasteurisation milk screening and running the facility. It’s been a lot,” she said.