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 more than 800,000 children under the age of five die each year, a majority of new mothers do not engage in optimal breastfeeding practice. Nationwide, only 33% of children are breastfed within the first hour of birth, and only 17% are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. Furthermore, poor infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices contribute to the prevalence of stunting (37%), wasting (18%), and underweight children (29%) throughout the country.
The Wellbeing Foundation Africa is an implementing partner for the Alive and Thrive Infant and Young Children Feeding and Nutrition Initiative, alongside our partners FHI 360 and Save the Children International, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in 550 facilities in Lagos and Kaduna states.
As implementing partners for Alive and Thrive, we joined together to save lives, prevent illness, stunting and malnutrition, and to ensure the healthy growth and development of infants and young children through improved breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices. We do so through a four-pronged approach: advising on policy and conducting advocacy; interpersonal communication and community mobilization; mass communication; and the strategic use of data.
Our advocacy includes promoting exclusive breastfeeding infants for the child’s first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health; and thereafter giving them nutritious complementary foods whilst continuing to breastfeed up to the age of two years and beyond. The advantages as we know are multiple and include a lower risk of gastrointestinal infection for the baby, more rapid maternal weight loss after birth, and delayed return of menstrual periods.