Lawal Haruna, Deputy Director, National Orientation Agency, NOA, Kaduna on Wednesday, urged Civil Society groups to evolve new approach to encourage mothers on exclusive breastfeeding of newborn babies.
The NOA official said the first six-month breastfeeding of newborns was a panacea to the alarming malnutrition challenges faced by children in Kaduna state.
Haruna spoke at the ongoing four-day workshop on Communication for Development (C4D) organised for Coalition of CSOs in Kaduna State.
He said CSOs must develop new communication skills to convince mothers and care givers in communities on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding of newborns in their first six months.
According to him, exclusive breast feeding of newborns in the first six months would determine their health, growth and development.
Available data showed that Kaduna state is among states with high level of malnutrition and stunting among children.
Different research results show poor literacy level among mothers and societal norms and traditional values are measure impediments to exclusive breastfeeding among mothers.
Haruna, however, noted that after the exclusive breastfeeding, an appropriate complementary feeding would then follow to enhance child growth.
This, he said, required a mother to feed her baby from six months with three meals per day, while continuing breastfeeding up to 24 months.
He stressed the importance of mothers feeding their children with fresh and nutrient rich complementary foods, while breastfeeding continues up to two years or even longer.
The official explained that increasing feeding frequency and promoting active feeding was key to child development, stressing the importance of providing adequate micronutrients through diets for faster growth of the child.
“Micronutrients are substances that are found in small amounts in different types of food but are very important for proper functioning of the body and for healthy growth.
” Because they can only be found in small amounts in food, some major ones are given as supplements in food or as stand- alone supplements to ensure that children do not suffer from their lack,” Haruna said.
Meanwhile, participants contributing to the discussions on challenges of exclusive breastfeeding, expressed concerns on complexity of behaviours among communities towards its achievement.
They say behaviour varies depending on the awareness of such communities regarding the importance of exclusive breastfeeding among newborns.
The participant, however, suggested for more support and new communication skills and approach to sensitise mothers and caregivers on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding to the growth of newborn babies.
Some of the participants expressed concern over the way people of influence around young mothers, especially mother In-laws and others treat their daughter in-laws on such issues.
They suggested for sensitisation of such family members as well as entire community women to encourage exclusive breastfeeding because of its health benefits.
According to them, women of child bearing age need support to learn the correct method of breastfeeding their babies.
“CSOs also need to learn new skills to counter most cultural norms that usually deprive mothers from allowing their babies enjoy the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding.”
This, they said, was fundamental to the growth, development and health of children, as well as mothers, and could contribute to 10 per cent reduction in child mortality.
Exclusive breastfeeding is feeding a baby with only breast milk from birth until the age of six months, without drinking water or taking any supplements.
The training currently holding in Zaria, is organised by the National Orientation Agency (NOA), supported by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The objective is to strengthen the capacity of the CSOs on C4D, improve their knowledge on essential family practices and at the end, come up with a C4D workplan for 2020.
Over 40 members of two coalitions of CSOs; Kaduna State Maternal Accountability Mechanism, KADMAM, and the Maternal and Child Health Civil Society Partnership, MCH-CS, with some Religious and Traditional Rulers are participating.