…breastfeeding can save 100,000 children’s lives each year and $22 million in health care treatment costs
At a private sector commemoration of the 2023 World Breastfeeding Week, four private organisations in Nigeria were recognised and awarded for instituting family-friendly workplace breastfeeding policies.
This is as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said Wednesday that only nine per cent of Nigerian organisations have a workplace breastfeeding policy, with only 1.5 per cent in the public sector.
Meanwhile, the winning organisations are MTN Nigeria Communications PLC, Access Bank PLC, Guinness Nigeria PLC, and UAC Nigeria.
Hosted by Alive & Thrive- a health and nutrition promotion organisation, the companies were celebrated in Lagos on Thursday for putting in place policies such as a six-month paid maternity leave, which they said enables the mandatory six-month exclusive breastfeeding for working mothers.
The event featured an engagement section with key stakeholders and corporate leaders from the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), member organisations, human resources managers, and organisations in the private sector.
The stakeholders deliberated on the theme: ‘Enable Breastfeeding, Making a Difference for Working Parents,’ even as panellists emphasised the need to provide a creche and a lactation centre at every workplace.
Benefits of exclusive breastfeeding
In her remarks, the wife of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, reiterated the importance of breastfeeding to child growth and development.
Mrs Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by Patience Ogunnubi, a member of the Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO), noted that exclusively breastfeeding a child for the first six months after birth helps to reduce morbidity, strengthens the immune system, and protects the baby against serious diseases such as respiratory infections, low growth, diarrhoea, and pneumonia, among others.
Apart from the child, she explained, “exclusive breastfeeding for mothers is highly beneficial, and it helps nursing mothers to burn extra calories, lowers their risk of breast and ovarian cancers, as well as Osteoporosis, a medical condition in which the bones become fragile from loss of tissue.”
She also cited a World Health Organisation (WHO) report that revealed that more than half a billion working women are not given essential maternity protections in national laws and that just 20 per cent of countries require employers to provide employees with paid breaks and facilities for breastfeeding or expressing milk.
“This is indeed worrisome, and as stakeholders, it calls for our urgent intervention towards implementing policies and finding solutions that provide opportunities for nursing mothers to have access to a minimum of 18 weeks maternity leave or preferably extending beyond six months for both private and public institutions,” she said.
According to UNICEF, improved breastfeeding practices could save over 100,000 children’s lives each year and $22 million in health care treatment costs related to inadequate breastfeeding.
The Project Director of Alive & Thrive, Victor Ogbodo, in his address, noted that friendlier corporate workplace breastfeeding policies not only benefit the well-being of employees but also contribute to enhanced employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention.
Development of workplace creche, lactation centres
The President NECA’s Network for Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW), Funmilayo Arowoogun, said through collaboration on targeted advocacy, the group has encouraged top organisations to develop creche and lactation centres for working mothers.
She said in April 2019, Alive & Thrive collaborated with NECA to undertake targeted advocacy to improve policies on extending the duration of paid leave, increasing workplace benefits for women, and strengthening existing policies, such as nursing breaks and the availability of creches within organisations.
“This advocacy, which was enabled by Alive & Thrive, also led to the establishment of a creche by Nigeria Breweries and a very large educational institution, situated somewhere in Ikeja, Dansol Group of Schools, also have a creche,” she said.
Speaking further, Mrs Arowoogun said that due to the dissemination of lactation tool kits, more private sector organisations have now decided to implement family-friendly policies, including baby-friendly practices in their workplaces.
“We come together not only to celebrate the power of nurturing through breastfeeding but also to acknowledge the role it plays in creating a healthier, more supportive work, workplace environment,” she said.
In her remarks, the Director and Head of the Nutrition Department at the Federal Ministry of Health, Binyerem Ukaire, represented by Nike Bayode, noted that the ministry recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.
She noted that the lack of support at the workplace is one of the main reasons why women stopped breastfeeding before the recommended time.
“More so as more and more Nigerian women are becoming economically active, there is a need to underscore workplace support for breastfeeding, which is not an obstacle to productivity,” she said.
Also speaking at the event, the Director-General of Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, urged more organisations to join the movement towards a more inclusive and nurturing work environment.
“Creating a nurturing work environment for nursing mothers and their families is not only a social responsibility but also a key driver of employee well-being and productivity,” he said.
In their goodwill messages, Makinde Akinlemibola from the Association of Nigeria Private Medical Practitioners (AANPMP); Bukola Smith, CEO of FSDH Merchant Bank, and Segun Ajayi-Kadir, Director General of Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN) advocated collective efforts to promote exclusive breastfeeding in workplaces.
Mrs Smith said newly married women are leaving the banking industry due to what she described as a lack of enabling family-friendly policies in most organisations. She, however, recommended the development of policies that would help retain the female workforce.
On his part, Dr Akinlemibola said creating an enabling environment for working mothers to breastfeed while at work is a necessity for every organisation.Follow us on social media