CS-SUNN recently convened different groups of women from all walks of life during the 2021 World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) to generate commitments and spur action towards improving Exclusive Breastfeeding (EBF) rates in the country. The one-day strategic meeting in collaboration with Save the Children to mark the WBW sought to build a crop of Nigerian women leaders as Change Agents for promoting, protecting and supporting EBF. The over 30 women leaders, drawn from Religious (both Christian and Islamic), Traditional, Civil Society, Media, Academia and Professional Women groups brainstormed on women’s roles in improving EBF and committed to using their various platforms and groups to propagate the message of EBF.

These stakeholders comprised Women leaders from the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Market Men and Women Association of Nigeria, Young Women Christian Association of Nigeria, Federation of Muslim Women’s Association in Nigeria, National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives. Others were from the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, National Council of Women Societies, Christian Association of Nigeria, Muslims in Dawah, and nutrition partners.

These women advocated for:

-improvement in practice of EBF in order to promote the mental and physical development of children

-male involvement and support to improve the EBF rate in Nigeria

-improved political will from government to enforce compliance with 6 months paid maternity leave for nursing mothers across the 36 states and at the federal level.

-motivation of pregnant women to register and attend antenatal care, preparation of expectant mothers to be psychologically set and enthusiastic for EBF, thus becoming role models and EBF advocates.

-Conducive work environments that promote the practice of EBF like setting up breastfeeding corners and crèches in work places.

In a presentation, the Director of Nutrition, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Binyerem Ukaire, said “the Exclusive Breast-feeding rate is 29%, while the target is 50%. The country is still below the benchmark. We still have a problematic situation, as far as Nigeria is concerned in terms of nutrition of children. We all need to join hands together to support Exclusive breast-feeding”. According to her it is not just about breastfeeding, but exclusive breastfeeding. She identified the tips for success as early initiation to breastfeeding, preferably within an hour of birth; EBF for six months; and continued breastfeeding with adequate complementary feeding up to two years.

In her remark, the Executive Secretary, CS-SUNN, Beatrice Eluaka reiterated CS-SUNN’s commitment to being a vanguard for EBF in Nigeria. She advocated for speedy implementation and promotion of the six months maternity leave for nursing mothers and appealed to organizations to create an enabling environment for the women to easily breastfeed the children after resumption from maternity leave.

Roles of women as change agents for EBF were identified as those of encouraging pregnant women to register for antenatal care and being advocates and role models for EBF. Market women were urged to take minutes off their trade to listen to EBF advocacy messages while Muslim women were enjoined to reinforce how the Qu’ran expressly urges breastfeeding for two years—and how wearing the hijab can enhance convenience and privacy when women have to nurse babies in public among others.

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