SOME working mothers in Anambra have decried the three months maternity leave policy of the state, saying they are caught between trying to achieve exclusive breastfeeding and maintaining their career.
They expressed their displeasure while speaking to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Awka to mark the 2022 World Breastfeeding Week.
According to the nursing mothers, they go the extra mile to breastfeed exclusively because their babies’ delicate immune systems depend on breast milk nutrition for proper development.
Mrs Irene Dike, a civil servant, said that she takes her mother and five-month-old baby to work everyday to achieve exclusive breastfeeding.
“I was determined to defy all odds when I resumed work after three months maternity leave. My mother comes to work with me and she stays with the baby in my car.
“I have to run down to the car park every two hours whenever my mum calls so I can breastfeed my baby. It is not easy at all but my mum keeps encouraging me, saying I’m making the healthiest choice for my baby.
“So, there is need for the state government to increase maternity leave to six months like we have in states like Lagos. It will help working mothers to achieve exclusive breastfeeding,” she said.
Narrating her experience, Mrs Ijeoma Uzoukwu who works in a private firm, said her four-months-old baby became sick from tking pumped breast milk.
“When I resumed work, I expressed and stored breast milk because I was leaving my baby with a family friend. But few days later my baby took ill and we were told at the hospital that it was food borne infection.
“I had to beg my manager to bear with me for the next three months so I can breastfeed exclusively and he agreed. Now I take my baby with me to work everyday.
“There should be a government policy mandating private organisations to
provide breastfeeding friendly work environments like having a créche,” she to NAN.
Reacting, the Executive Director, Davina Child Care Foundation, Mrs Rachel Yohanna commended mothers who try to balance between exclusive breastfeeding and earning a living.
According to her, after the maternity leave, only few mothers still exclusively breastfeed while many turn to baby formulas instead, as they drop their kids off at daycares or with family.
“This is one of the factors contributing to the low breastfeeding rate in Anambra.
“Practising exclusive breastfeeding among working mothers is a very difficult task but it is one of the best gifts you can give your child for a lifetime of health and happiness, ” she said.
According to a joint statement by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on the 2022 World Breastfeeding Week, Nigeria’s Exclusive Breastfeeding rate is 29 per cent.
It stated that only nine per cent of organisations in Nigeria have a workplace breastfeeding policy, indicating that mothers lack the enabling environment to optimally breastfeed their babies.
That is why UNICEF and WHO are calling on governments, donors, civil society, and the private sector to step up efforts to Implement family-friendly policies that provide mothers with the time, space, and support they need to breastfeed.
The Executive Secretary, Anambra State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr Chioma Ezenyimulu, said the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding prompted the construction of Créche at the state secretariat.
“Once the créche is completed, it will help secure infant bonding as well as the opportunity of extended breastfeeding after the three months maternity leave.
“It will also reduce absenteeism and improve productivity in workplace. It will also serve as a model for private organisations in the state to emulate,” she said.
World Breastfeeding Week is observed from Aug.1 to Aug. 7 every year. It was first started in 1992 to promote the benefits of breastfeeding on both mother and the baby.
The theme for the 2022 commemoration is “Step Up for Breastfeeding: Educate and Support”. (NAN)