The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Mr Linus Awute, says Nigeria has the poorest exclusive breastfeeding rate in Africa with only 17 per cent of the children being exclusively breastfed.
Awute made this known at the ministerial launch of the 2015 World Breastfeeding Week in Abuja on Monday.
Represented by Dr Bridget Okoeguale, Director Public Health, Awute said many women fed their infants with breast milk along with water.
“All the water the child needs is contained in the breast milk; there is no need to give the child water or any other liquid,’’ he said.
According to him, exclusive breast feeding means that water or other liquid is not given to the child, except oral rehydration solution, drops or syrups of vitamins, minerals and medicines.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that infants be exclusively breast feed for the first six months of life to achieve growth,’’ he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of this year’s celebration is ‘Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s make it Together’.
He stressed the need to support women to combine breastfeeding with work whether in formal, informal or home setting.
The permanent secretary called on the private sector to encourage breastfeeding mothers through the provision of crèches and breastfeeding rooms in work places and flexible working hours for mothers.
Dr Wapada Balami, Director, Family Health Department in the ministry, said supporting women of reproductive age in optimal breast feeding would ensure developmental milestone of the first 1,000 days of the child.
He added that exclusive breast feeding would prevent irreversible damage to full potentials in the pre-school age of the children.
According to Balami, Nigeria joined the global community to celebrate the week which aimed at galvanising multi-dimensional support to enable women everywhere work and breast feed.
“It also promotes actions by employers to become baby friendly and actively facilitates and supports employed mothers to continue breast feeding,’’ he said.