Breastfeeding is the Building Block for Human Capital Development – Commissioner
By: Femi Mustapha
The Kaduna State Commissioner for Planning and Budget Commission, Hon. Murktar Ahmed, has emphasized that optimal breastfeeding is the building block for human capital development and essential for child survival.
He made this assertion during a dialogue agenda meeting organized by the Departments of Aid Coordination, Kaduna Planning, and Budget Commission with support from UNICEF held on August 7th, 2023.
Hon. Ahmed stated that breastfeeding also contributes to health and development, while poor Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) practices significantly contribute to the high burden of infant and childhood morbidity and mortality.
He explained that breastfeeding provides children with necessary nutrients for growth, contains important antibodies that fight against diseases, and enhances cognitive development.
The Commissioner added that mothers also benefit from breastfeeding, noting that it reduces the risk of depression, breast and ovarian cancer, and saves time and money while enhancing the bond between mother and child.
“It is based on this that the Kaduna State government became one of the states to implement the WHO-recommended six months paid maternity leave policy and the provision of creches to aid breastfeeding mothers to continue nursing their babies even after they resume work.
“In addition to promoting the health and well-being of its citizens, the present administration is poised to invest in human capital development as contained in its SUSTAINED AGENDA to build and strengthen a healthcare system that is preventive in approach, well-equipped and staffed, accessible and affordable, and oriented to deliver a decent standard of care,” he said.
In her presentation titled “The Roles of Stakeholders in Promoting Breastfeeding,” the Director of Development Aid Coordination PBC, Mrs. Linda Yakubu, highlighted that breastfeeding is one of the most cost-effective and impactful practices for reducing malnutrition and under-5 mortality.
Yakubu described breastfeeding as a human rights issue for babies and mothers, noting that it should be protected and promoted for the benefit of both.
She, therefore, called on the government and stakeholders to work together to create a breastfeeding-friendly environment for lactating mothers.
“A warm chain of support will help build an enabling environment for breastfeeding and protect the parents and families against breastmilk substitutes industry influence.
“Legislation must be enacted and upheld to protect the mother’s and parents’ right to enhance maternity & parental leave.
“The establishment of creches and lactating rooms for working mothers to sustain continuous breastfeeding practices are very important,” Yakubu said.
Also, Mrs. Chinwe Ezeife, Nutrition Specialist, UNICEF Kaduna Field Office, stated that breast milk contains everything the baby needs for the first six months of life in all the right proportions.
She added that breast milk composition changes according to babies’ changing needs, especially during the first month of life.
Ezeife, therefore, said that, because of that, Kaduna MDAs should ensure the provision of creches for babies to enjoy uninterrupted six months of breastfeeding by their mothers while at the workplace.
She said UNICEF was working towards ensuring the provision of creches at all the MDAs becomes a reality.
Also, the Project Manager of Accelerating Nutrition Results in Nigeria (ANRiN), Dr. Zainab Muhammad-Idris, stated that breast milk provides optimal nutrition for babies.
She noted that it has the right amount of nutrients and is easily digested and readily available at birth.
Muhammad-Idris, a medical practitioner, added that breastfeeding also reduces the disease burden for mothers.
She, however, said that to sustain breastfeeding at the appropriate time, creches must be established in MDAs to enable lactating mothers to breastfeed their children during working hours.
Also, the Kaduna Programme Manager of Alive and Thrive, Mrs. Sarah Kwasu, said they were committed to galvanizing actions on improving working conditions and relevant support for breastfeeding at work.
Similarly, Jessica Bartholomew, the State Coordinator of Civil Society-Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), said good nutrition is the bedrock of fighting malnutrition among underage children.
She opined that breastfeeding reduces maternal and child morbidity.
According to Bartholomew, optimal breastfeeding is the best-recommended nutrition for newborn babies for up to six months by experts.