This Thrive Thursday, I reflect on the importance of Maternal, Infant and Young Child Feeding Nutrition to promote new norms around feeding practices among mothers and families, cultivate greater understanding around good nutrition-related behaviour and improve nutrition outcomes for children in the first 1000 days.
Early and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life is the single most important nutritional determinant for child survival. Yet, in Nigeria, where over 850,000 children under the age of five die each year, a majority of new mothers do not engage in optimal breastfeeding practices or provide a minimum acceptable diet and dietary diversity need. The loss of life, productivity, human capital, future economic benefits, and increased cost to heath systems at country, regional and global levels, call for immediate scaling up of financing and implementation of policies, programs and interventions to meet the WHO World Health Assembly’s Global Nutrition Target of ‘increasing the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months up to at least 50%’ by 2025, en route to the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Nutrition is one of the most vital components of primary health care, and through an evidence-based framework and collaborative strategic approach my Wellbeing Foundation Africa partnership with Alive and Thrive, with the support of McCann Global Health, FHI360, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, emphasised optimal breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices for infants and children, from birth to two years of age, and adequate nourishment and care for pregnant women. During the multi-year programme (2018-2020) our aim was to build momentum, break down barriers, support a better future for women and children, which was replicable and scalable across the nation, to save lives, prevent illness, and ensure healthy growth and development through optimal maternal nutrition, breastfeeding, and complementary feeding practices, changing Infant and Young Child Feeding behaviours.
Our outreach and cross-fertilization of the WBFA Alive and Thrive Infant and Young Child Feeding programme successfully reached over 200,000 antenatal care attendees, 120,000 mothers of children less than 2 years and 15,000 family members with an increased counselling content of facility healthcare workers in IYCF. To date, our Mamacare360 programme continues to work actively and consistently with all our partners to promote early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding, providing the lactation support required for mothers across Nigeria to sustainably continue as advised on the most recent American Academy of Paediatrics’ New Breastfeeding Recommendations for 2 years or beyond, with appropriate complementary foods introduced at about 6 months.
To further upskill our midwives, healthworkers, and inter-personal community interlocutors, ensuring they are empowered and engendered to build on the program’s success, independently and continuously, my Wellbeing Foundation Africa with the support of Laerdal Medical, donated state-of-the-art breastfeeding simulators to aid education and improve knowledge on the physical anatomy and physiology of lactation and breastfeeding so that our breastfeeding guardians may accelerate nutrition results for better health outcomes for women and their families in Nigeria.
The breast is the shortest, most sustainable supply chain, and the smartest investment a country can make to build its future of prosperity.
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