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COVID-19: Nutrition Society encourages mothers in isolation to express breastmilk

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The Nutrition Society of Nigeria, NSN, says mothers in isolation should be encouraged to express breastmilk for their babies to be fed.

According to the organisation, this is to ensure that the baby is well nourished even while the mother receives care while receiving treatment and recovering from COVID-19.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that expressing milk means to squeeze milk from breast, put in a container or bottle for feeding without putting the baby directly to breast.

Dr Bartholomew Brai, President, NSN, in a statement on Sunday said that nutrition support was a component of health care and should be included in the management of COVID-19 patients with attention on energy, protein and fluid balance maintenance.

According to the statement, following high mortality among older people affected by COVID-19, adequate nutrition and management of secondary conditions/infection of the older population should be ensured.

“For mothers infected with the virus, he said: “Mothers in isolation should be encouraged to express their breastmilk using a dedicated breast pump and observe hand hygiene and disinfection of pump and other utensils used.

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“Expressed milk should be fed to the newborn by a healthy caregiver.

`During rooming-in, mothers should put on a facemask and practice hand hygiene before putting the newborn to the breast.

“Complementary foods should cover at least four food groups and be served warm.

“Recommended meal frequencies are two to three times a day for ages six to eight months and three to four times a day for ages nine to 23 months for a breastfed child.

“ For a non-breastfed child aged six-23 months, meal frequency should be at least four  times a day to provide adequate nutrition.’’

Mr Brai said there was need to synergise efforts by all stakeholders to effectively manage the COVID-19 pandemic, by also promoting adequate nutrition to reduce its aftermath burden and severity of malnutrition.

However, he said that there was presently no evidence on the efficacy of any dietary supplement or herbs in the prevention and management of COVID-19, hence every case should be reported to the State Team for follow up and proper management.

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According to him, there is need for nutrition to be addressed across the lifecycle.

“The pandemic is not only mopping up the financial resources of households, communities, states, and nations.

“It is disrupting the food system and existing strategies to address the high burden of malnutrition in Nigeria.

“These include  the social protection programmes for different age groups, cash transfer programmes, school feeding programme for school-age children in public schools, community management of acute malnutrition, among other existing initiatives.’’

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The president of NSN advised parents of School-Age Children, especially those in public schools and who benefit from existing school feeding programmes, to provide an extra meal per day for these children where they are capable.

According to him, while the Federal Government‘s effort to sustain the school feeding programme during the lockdown is commendable, the use of community structures should be deployed to reach the beneficiaries and extend the coverage.

He advised adolescents and adults to adopt appropriate diet and lifestyle measures as they are important to sustain body immunity and promote health and well-being.

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“The lockdown offers the opportunity to reinforce health-promoting lifestyle including diet, sleep (about eight hours daily) and physical activity.

“Micronutrients are critical for health and essential in strengthening the immune system, thus eat fresh and varieties of foods as well as being hydrated by taking about 6-8 cups of water daily.

“Limit salt and sugar intake, pastries and consumption of soft drinks, alcohol and spirits,” he explained.

Mr Brai urged that proper food hygiene be maintained and handwashing be observed after returning home, and before preparing or eating food.

He advised that children should not accompany adults to markets, shopping malls, supermarkets and other public places.

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He also urged governments to make efforts to stabilise food supply and regulate food prices.

“Government and other stakeholders should make efforts to provide food and nutrition support for indigent households.

“They should also intensify community management of acute malnutrition and similar ongoing interventions, and scale up existing social protection programmes especially for the older population,” Mr Brai said.

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