From Steve Oko, Umuahia
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as the wife of Abia State Governor, Mrs Nkechi Ikpeazu, have urged nursing mothers to continue to observe exclusive breastfeeding despite the COVID -19 pandemic.
According to UNICEF and WHO, there is no evidence yet that coronavirus could be transmitted through breastmilk, hence, the need for nursing mothers to continue with the practice despite COVID -19.
Both agencies in a joint statement signed by NICEF’s Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, noted that exclusive breastfeeding remained the best feeding option considering its immense benefits both to nursing mothers and babies.
It read in part : “While researchers continue to test breastmilk from mothers with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, current evidence indicate that it is unlikely that COVID-19 would be transmitted through breastfeeding.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, like most emergencies, leaves families with children in an extremely vulnerable position. Given the present lack of evidence that transmission of the virus could occur through breastmilk, we recommend that mothers should be encouraged to initiate and continue to breastfeed their babies while observing good hygiene practices.
“Babies should be fed only breastmilk for their first 6 months, after which they should continue breastfeeding – as well as eating other nutritious and safe foods – until two years of age or beyond. ”
According to the statement, breastmilk saves children’s lives as it provides antibodies that give babies a healthy boost and protect them against many childhood illnesses.
UNICEF therefore, called on relevant agencies to strictly enforce adherence to the National Regulation on the Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and relevant World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions by putting to a stop to the unwholesome marketing of breastmilk substitutes.
It further called on civil society organizations not to seek or accept donations of breastmilk substitutes in emergency situations.
In a statement, the Abia First Lady, Mrs. Nkechi Ikpeazu, has urged nursing mothers in the state to strictly observe exclusive breastfeeding due to its health and economic benefits.
“It promotes better health for mother and child. Exclusive Breastfeeding also makes children grow up to become stronger adults with immunities that can resist diseases and pandemics like COVID19.
” Breast milk is the best nutrition a mother can provide for her child. It is highly nutritious, and contains all the food and water that a baby needs including ingredients that make babies strong and capable of resisting diseases.
“It also enhances their brain. It is readily available and cheaper than packaged baby foods. In addition, a mother who breastfeeds her child gets other health benefits such as reduced blood pressure.
“Breastfeeding should be exclusive for the first six months of life. Thereafter a mother may breastfeed alongside other complimentary food until the baby is up to two years or beyond,” Mrs. Ikpeazu said.
The governor’s wife called on religious leaders and employers of labour to provide breastfeeding facilities (creche) in their work places and places of worship for the comfort of nursing mothers.
She also called on labour unions, women rights groups, and law-makers to galvanize action and guarantee breastfeeding rights for working mothers.