Towards proffering solution to the rising spate of infant mortality in the state, the Osun State Primary Health Care Development Board (OPHCDB), recently organised a one-day workshop to sensitise nursing mothers and women on exclusive breastfeeding. The programme themed: “Promoting Exclusive Breastfeeding in Osun” and anchored by the Department of Nutrition Services in collaboration with the United Children’s Fund (UNICEF) drew participants from stakeholders, including women groups and associations as well as nutritionists, health experts, child care givers among others.
Exclusive Breast Feeding (EBF) Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey 2016/2017, indicated that 101 out of 1,000 children die in the state before they clock five years, while 78 out of 1,000 die before they are 12 months old. The survey also showed that 56 out of 1,000 newborns die within 28 days of birth.
Director, Nutrition Services and Health Education, OPHCDB, Dr James Oloyede, attributed the trend to infection-related diseases due to nursing mothers’ failure to embark on exclusive breastfeeding for their babies at least within six months after birth.
He also lamented that instead of mothers to give only breast milk to their babies within one hour after birth until they are six months old, they give them both breast milk, water and other kinds of fluid which are prone to infections and diseases and which often times result in infant mortality.
He said it was against this background as well as ignorance and lack of awareness that the workshop was organised to create awareness on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, the roles of women, mothers and child care givers with a view to checkmating the rising trend of infant mortality in the state.
While orientating the participants on the relevance of exclusive breastfeeding to child’s health and wellbeing, Oloyede defined it as a practice whereby a mother puts her newborn to breast immediately or at least within one hour after birth and continues the practice without giving the baby water or any form of fluid or food until the child clocks six months.
He added that breast milk contained all the necessary nutrients and had a balanced diet so much that the baby did not need any other form of food within the six months of birth.
Oloyede also disclosed that apart from other necessary nutrients, breast milk contained 88.1 per cent of water: “Every time a mother breastfeeds, she gives her baby water through her breast milk. Breast milk has everything a baby needs to quench thirst and satisfy hunger. It is the best possible food and drink that can be offered a baby so that the baby will grow to be strong and healthy. Caution should be taken to ensure that water and other liquids do not replace breast milk.
“Even though 94 per cent of children were ever breastfed in 2016/2017 according to the EBF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, about half of them were exclusively breastfed.” He added that only 23 children out of 100 in the state were put to breast within one hour after birth:
“We plead with mothers to accept the fact that God has put adequate amount of water in their breast milk so much that a child of less than six months does not need additional water. Science and research have proved that a child can survive on the breast milk only for the first six months without water or any form of food.”
Oloyede urged the participants to go back to their various groups, associations and communities as ambassadors of exclusive breast feeding by disseminating information to families, women, mothers and child care givers that it is a panacea for infant mortality.
A nutrition expert, Mr Mike Chukwu, who also attributed the rising infant mortality to neglect of exclusive breastfeeding by mothers, said pre-lacteal feed, which is mothers’ tendency to give water or other forms of fluid to a newborn before breastfeeding exposed them to infections, diseases and deaths. He urged the participants to advocate only exclusive breastfeeding immediately and until six months after birth.
To prevent newborns’ death, he called on mothers to ensure they put them to breast immediately after birth to enable them have an intake of the first breast milk known as colostrum before it stops flowing:
“The early initiation of baby to colostrum was crucial to the baby’s health because it is a kind of immunisation against any disease. It protects the baby against infection, allergy and intolerance, helps to prevent jaundice helps intestines to mature.
“My message to nursing mothers and care givers all over the state, especially in the rural communities is to give only breast milk to their newborns until they are six months old without water, palp (ogi), herbs (agbo) or any other kind of food.” He said newborns could survive and grow well on only breast milk within the first six months of life without any other food.
Another nutritionist, Mrs Adeoye Oyeyemi, stressed that it guaranteed optimal intellectual development, improved vision, reduction in the incidence of sudden infant deaths as well as prevention of dental infection. She added that breast milk had a perfect composition that was easily digested and utilised by the baby and prevents malnutrition:
“It also protects the baby against infection such as diarrhea, respiratory and urinary tract infections and reduces morbidity and mortality in infected babies. It also prevents cancer, diabetes mellitus, atopic disorders and obesity in the later life of the child.”
A nutrition officer, Mrs Rashidat Popoola, called on nursing mothers to breastfeed their babies for at least eight times during the day and four times during the night, making 12 times altogether for the baby’s full satisfaction. She also urged them to ensure proper positioning of the baby to enable them suckle well for adequate supply of breast milk.
Director, Nursing of Nursing Services, OPHCDB, Mrs Alo Afolabi, attributed mothers’ nonchalance towards exclusive breastfeeding to poverty. She expressed worries that nursing mothers in poverty-stricken families who lack basic means of livelihood could not feed well. As a result they could not face the challenge of exclusive breastfeeding:
“How well a nursing mother feeds determines how well she can embark on exclusive breastfeeding. But due to poverty, so many nursing mothers, especially in rural communities, can’t do exclusive breastfeeding. That is why adequate provision should be made for nursing mothers to ensure that they feed well and eat a balanced diet to be able to breastfeed their babies properly.
“Infant formulas are very expensive. Instead of wasting money on them, it is better to use the money to provide adequate food and balanced diet for the nursing mothers, which is more economical. Therefore, exclusive breastfeeding is more economical.”
A grandmother, Mrs Bosede Alabi, said: “So many grandmas discourage their daughters or daughter-in-laws from exclusive breastfeeding because they believe that breast milk is not enough for the child. Some of them even give their own breast milk, which does not have nutrients to their grand babies when their mother is not around. This is wrong. It can cause infection and ailment for the child.
“Mothers are encouraged to do exclusive breastfeeding and should shun grandmas’ influence in this case.”
A nursing mother who bemoaned a barrier to exclusive breastfeeding said: “Some churches have been turned to maternity centres where babies are first of all given prayer water before breast milk. This is one of the major reasons why babies contact infection and we continue to record newborn deaths.”