Study conducted by Alive & Thrive with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has revealed that improving breastfeeding can help Nigeria reach its full human and economic potential by reducing the cost to healthcare system by $22 million annually.
The study further revealed that every $1 invested in breastfeeding in low and middle income countries can generate as much as $35 in economic returns.
It stated that optimal breastfeeding practices have the following potential for Nigeria: $21 billion additional income generated for the economy, 4.1 per cent of gross national income over Children productive years, save treatment cost of $22 million and the cost of breast milk substitute eliminated by $38 million.
“Improving breastfeeding can help Nigeria reach its full human and economic potential by preventing 10 million cases of childhood diarrhea and pneumonia, thereby saving 103,742 children’s lives each year and reducing the cost to the healthcare system by $22 million a year,” the study revealed.
With all these benefits of breastfeeding, the study however urged the government to update and strengthen the international code of breastmilk substitutes. It said, “There is need to bring regulations on the marketing of breast milk substitutes in line with global recommendations, including effective enforcement and monitoring mechanisms.
In her reaction, public health nutritionist, Family Health Department, Federal Ministry of Health, Kobata Thompson, at a sensitization workshop on the national regulations on the marketing of breast milk substitute in Lagos, said adequate nutrition during infancy and early childhood is fundamental to child’s growth and development to full potential.
On the other hand, Thompson said inadequate nutritional practices begin with poor universal breastfeeding practices which drawback the child, mother, family and nation at large, resulting to 823,000 deaths, lost of more than $300 billion annually and 20,000 breast cancer deaths annually.
She said over two-thirds of under five deaths in Nigeria, which are often associated with inappropriate feeding practices occur during the first year of life.
The way forward, according to Thompson is for mothers to initiate early breastfeeding within one hour of birth, embark on exclusive breastfeeding of infants till the 6th month of life and continue breastfeeding, with complimentary food up to two years or beyond.
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