UNICEF Seeks Six Months Maternity Leave For Nursing Mothers

Written by on August 9, 2021

The federal and state governments have been urged as a matter of priority to enact laws granting six months maternity leave to nursing mothers to enable them plentiful time to practice breastfeeding.

United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) at a one-day zonal media dialogue to commemorate 2021 World Breastfeeding Week held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State stressed the importance of exclusive breastfeeding to the child from birth to the next six months (zero water) and even up to two years.

This, according to Mrs Ngozi Onuorah, Nutrition Specialist, UNICEF Rivers Field Office, is critical to the long term health and well-being of the mother and child.
The media dialogue, with the theme ‘Protect Breastfeeding, A Shared Responsibility’, drew participants from Abia, Delta, Rivers and Akwa Ibom States which dwelt primarily on issues relating to prospects and progress of breastfeeding initiative in Nigeria.

It also examined how the media can support advocacy in order to improve the implementation of the Breastfeeding Policies Action Plan vis-a-vis commitments by stakeholders including media practitioners.

Giving an overview of the breastfeeding initiative in the country, Mrs Onuoha said many working mothers go through stresses while breastfeeding, a situation she said called for adequate time review, to at least six months vacation to allow them sufficient time to breastfeed.

The nutrition expert said as part of advocacy goals, there is the need to raise the visibility of breastfeeding as a foundation of child survival, secure financial resources for national breastfeeding programs, strengthen political commitment and ultimately contribute towards building a social movement in which breastfeeding is a social norm.

She said failure or refusal to give babies breast milk amounted not only to denying them fundamental human rights but also a sin against God.

“It is a sin for a mother to deny a child breast milk, and, it is a crime for the government not to invest in and encourage breastfeeding advocacy and policy implementation initiatives; because breastfeeding initiative is a shared responsibility.”

According to her, breastmilk has been prepared by God for over a period of nine months until the baby was born.

She counselled mothers and fathers, and indeed all Nigerians including the media to take a proactive interest in talking about healthy children through the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding.

“Media practitioners, and journalists, in particular, should not only firmly turn down any offer of souvenirs from companies and marketers of breastmilk alternatives, but they should also take an active part in promoting baby-friendly institutions and ensuring that specific budget approvals are duly released and accountably applied,” the UNICEF nutrition specialist stressed.

Head of Nutrition Division, Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Health, Dr Victor Bassey, went spiritual in his presentation by quoting Lamentations 4:3-6, Genesis 2:5-7, and Ist Samuel 1:23 to underscore the importance of breastfeeding.

Dr Bassey condemned the use of baby food from other mammals saying “some of the organs of children that use baby food do not develop well.

“The rising cases of sickness, kidney failure, abnormal behaviours etc are as a result of children being fed with baby food.

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