A Nutritionist, Ms Uju Onuorah, has called on stakeholders to support breastfeeding mothers who experienced certain challenges that made breastfeeding an onerous task for some of them.
She made the call while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja, on the occasion of the World Breastfeeding Week, celebrated every August 1 to 7 across the world.
The theme for WBW 2023 is, “Enable breastfeeding, making a difference for working parents,” focuses on creating more awareness on breastfeeding support in workspaces.
According to Onuorah, some mothers experience challenges during breastfeeding and working mothers may find those challenges to be particularly severe.
The challenges include sore nipples which occur during the first few weeks of nursing, where many mothers suffer pain or irritation in their nipples, low milk supply and engorgement, a situation where there is a surplus of milk in the breasts.
“Also, mastitis, a breast infection that can result in flu-like symptoms and breast soreness, plugged ducts and breastfeeding in public.
“Some mothers may feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public due to societal norms or lack of privacy.”
Onuorah said that working breastfeeding mothers could also experience time constraints which might be challenging for them to find time to breastfeed or pump breast milk while at work, particularly if there are few breaks or tight work schedules.
She said they also faced challenges in storage and transportation of breast milk, lack of privacy because it was possible that many companies did not offer nursing mothers a cosy, private area in which to pump milk, which could cause discomfort and a lack of privacy.”
Talking about the breastfeeding week whose emphasis is on making breastfeeding work in work places, she said it was about supporting nursing mothers in their employment.
She said it also called for family-friendly policies to be put in place, breastfeeding-friendly surroundings be established, and the benefits of breastfeeding at work be made more widely known.
She added that with such in place, more mothers would be able to continue nursing while pursuing their careers by encouraging a friendly and inclusive work environment, which would be good for both their health and that of their children.
“Some of the ways we can support working breastfeeding mothers is to show empathy, create a breastfeeding-friendly workplace and offer flexibility by providing flexible work hours or breaks to accommodate their pumping needs.
She, however, said that in spite of the difficulties, working breastfeeding mothers can overcome them and keep giving their infants the best care possible if they have support from their employers, co-workers and families.
She added that implementing family-friendly policies and creating breastfeeding-friendly work environments could significantly ease these challenges and support working mothers in their breastfeeding journey.
Onuorah said that there were immense benefits of breastfeeding to both mother and child.
She said it ensured that babies received the best nourishment possible from breast milk, which had the perfect ratio of easily digestible and readily available nutrients and provides optimal nutrition for babies.
“Antibodies found in breast milk help shield infants from a variety of ailments and disorders, including asthma, obesity, type one diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome.
“Infants who are breastfed are less likely to get respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases.”
The nutritionist said that breastfeeding encouraged healthy weight gain and helped to prevent childhood obesity.
Also, it helps with cognitive development for children and studies have shown that exclusively breastfed babies tend to have higher Intelligent Quotient than non-exclusively breastfed babies.
She also said that breastfed infants are less likely to get Pre-term Necrotising Enterocolitis (NEC), vomiting and diarrhoea.
“Exclusively breastfed babies have lower risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and they often have healthy immune systems that help them resist infections and diseases.”
For the mothers, she said that exclusive breastfeeding helped them recover from childbirth more swiftly and easily.
According to her, breastfeeding causes the release of hormones that aid in the uterus’ return to its pre-pregnancy size and may lessen postpartum uterine haemorrhage.
“Breastfeeding may also help with postpartum weight loss. Mothers shed pregnancy weight more quickly by breastfeeding since it burns extra calories.
“Breastfeeding is a special and distinctive method for mothers to feel connected to their babies as it helps increase both physical and emotional bonding between a mother and her baby”, she added.
NAN reports that Ms Cristian Munduate, the UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, also says improved breastfeeding practices can save more than 100,000 children each year in Nigeria and 22 million dollars in health care treatment costs related to inadequate breastfeeding.
She acknowledged the significant strides made in the past two decades in Nigeria to increase exclusive breastfeeding rates, adding that it remained evident that more needed to be done.